TW- violent crime, physical and sexual assault, mental health issues
Monsters Inside: The 24 Faces Of Billy Milligan (2021)
Directed by Olivier Megaton
Synopsis: 4 episode crime series documenting the crimes, incarceration, and mental health tribulations of rapist/alleged murderer Billy Milligan.
The Billy Milligan case is obviously very interesting because there are many different aspects to it. The crimes themselves, the trial, the medical side, but also the family and friends part. Opinions about his case aside the documentary itself is fairly well done. Factual information in an easy to understand format, archive photos and footage, and lots of current interviews. I felt that they were a little too heavy handed with a couple of mugshot photos (which I’ll get into later) and the actual crimes committed seem to be treated like a footnote which is a bit frustrating to me.
I have a few issues with this docuseries. Not that any of the victims would want to watch it but they were woefully underrepresented in it. Maybe they wanted to be and that’s their right, but it felt a bit insulting. These women went through a horrifying experience and it didn’t feel like it was represented like that in this doc. Their stories were treated a little like a means to an end. Just an epilogue to the “real story” of Billy Milligan. It’s a bit distasteful.
The documentarians also relied heavily on two mugshot photos. My issue with their use is that it’s clear that he looks a certain way in them. There’s a certain amount of ‘handsomeness’ coupled with a late 70’s aesthetic. From a marketing stand point I understand their use. Where I take issue is that even though they clearly recognised how people might perceive his appearance the documentary never talks about how that very thing may have been disarming to the people around him, including his victims. In fact it seems like they go out of their way to act like they don’t know how he influenced so many people. There is (and has always been) a bias in our society when it comes to physical appearance. If he looked different in those years he may not have gotten away with as much as he did before and after the attacks.
I also felt like not enough pointed questions were asked of the family and friends during their interviews. I understand not wanting to alienate them to keep them talking buuuuut…. Some of them were admitting to straight up aiding and abetting and no other questions were asks of their decisions. His brother and friend helped him flee the fucking country (as if we wanted him in our country even for a little while) and it was completely brushed over. Why?
All of that being said, the trial and its aftermath was very interesting. In the end I found it really illustrated the lack of support available for mental health care. Whether you believe in Milligan’s diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder or not the fact remains that his mental health was an issue. It became clear early on that everyone in his childhood knew about the abuses he was suffering, which raises the question; would proper interventions (counselling/therapy) in his teens have kept these crimes from ever taking place? Mental Health support, especially for trauma victims is still lacking now, I can only imagine what it was like in the 70’s. What does it do to a person to not only be abused but know that the people around them see and hear it but do nothing to prevent it? I also believe that the guilt his siblings carry (through no fault of their own) is what made them easily manipulated. They needed help of their own. It doesn’t excuse what he then did, but maybe it could have been prevented. It also illustrates the lack of systems in place for when violent crimes are committed by someone who has mental health issues. It’s not one way of the other. Prison or freedom. We need better systems and institutions in place for the grey area in between. Someone may not be mentally capable of knowing right from wrong but a person who’s exhibited repetitive violent tendencies be given a couple prescriptions and allowed to walk free? There’s a lot to unpack there.
In the end it’s a good docuseries. There’s plenty of information to get you asking questions and the pacing keeps the 4 episodes moving along smoothly. I would have like more time spent not the victims because they deserve it and more pointed questions asked of the friends and family.
Worth the watch, especially if you’re interested in the mental health side of a case like this. Have you seen this documentary or read about the Billy Milligan case? How did you feel about his diagnosis or how the case wha handled? Let me know!