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"Monsters Inside" examines how a criminal's claims of dissociative identity disorder made him a star

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23.09.2021

In "Monsters Inside: The 24 Faces of Billy Milligan," Netflix's latest, shocking true crime project takes audiences on a sordid and haunted journey through the life and alleged crimes of Billy Milligan. The man was famously accused of kidnapping and raping three women at the Ohio State University in the 1970s, only to be acquitted by citing and blaming the crime, which he confessed to, on his dissociative identity disorder.

Decades later, myriad questions and contrasting perspectives remain about Milligan, his crimes, and his mental condition. After being acquitted, Milligan spent time at varying mental institutions, where psychiatrists analyzed and debated his condition for years. But as more and more media attention became attached to his case, and the continued sprees of crime and violence connected to his name, Milligan soon emerged as a star — dating women, having a wedding at a mental facility, living it up in Hollywood.

But as authors wrote sympathetic or at least humanizing books about Milligan, his alleged victims – including three young women and very possibly several male murder victims – vanished from the narrative. The same documentary that interviews Milligan's sister about his being a doting uncle to her kids and a good friend of Milligan's who actively aided him in escaping confinement, also speaks to s a law enforcement agent who expresses disgust with all of this. "No one cared about his victims," he observed, noting how instead, the culture obsessed with and fixated on Milligan's mental condition.

"Monsters Inside" presents a compelling yet concerning story, as audiences may consider the ethical questions it raises about how media portrays mental illness, or the entertainment industry's enduring obsession with serial killers and violent men like Ted Bundy. Such storytelling can often elevate violent men to celebrity-like figures, at the expense of their victims and other sexual assault victims, who are relegated to footnotes.

These issues are among the many discussed behind the scenes in creating "Monsters Inside," French director Olivier Megaton, who's directed "Colombiana" and two of the "Taken" films, told Salon.

"For the entire documentary, we couldn't just be against him, because you need to have not necessarily empathy, but you need to like the subject a little more to go inside, and show him, and understand what happened in his life," Megaton said, of the creative decision to humanize Milligan despite his alleged crimes.

In the interview below, Megaton also discusses the cultural context of the crimes, the contrasts in American and European reactions to Milligan's stories, and the common controversies that true crime and psychological stories like Milligan's are often steeped in.

The intro sequence of the docuseries features many iconic cultural moments from the '70s and '80s. In telling this story, how important was it to contextualize it with the greater sociopolitical environment of this time period?

I'm a moviemaker, so I have so much love for the '60s, '70s, '80s movies. Maybe it's our European American dream. So, when we talked about this with the people at Netflix, I loved the idea because I felt that in the '70s especially, in the U.S., it was just after that very specific youth revolution, and many things changed. For me, Billy Milligan was at the turn, especially with the science at the time.

It was maybe the last big turn, and something very interesting. Cinematically, I loved the aesthetic of it, the cars, everything, for example, was much more interesting than today when you're traveling everywhere in the world, and very much of it looks the same. In the social aspects, I liked to focus on the cultural turning point of the U.S. in the '80s — there were many things that led me to that introduction.

Throughout the show, there's a lot of debate over whether Billy's condition was real, and connecting it with........

© Salon


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