The full title of Netflix's new documentary series is Don't F**k With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer. But anyone who just saw the first part about cats might've thought it was a comedy movie, or a documentary about badass cats -- or maybe even a defense of the new Cats movie people keep attacking. But no. Oh no. It's about the internet sleuths who tracked down a Canadian man who started by torturing and killing kittens and escalated into killing a man named Lin Jun.
Don't F**k With Cats' summary on the site does have a general note on the content -- it's a true crime doc about hunting an internet killer. There are many such gruesome true crime docs on the streamer.
However, early in the first episode of Don't F**k With Cats, the docuseries plays the start of footage from one of the killer's kitten torture videos. His video was posted to the internet as "1 boy 2 kittens," showing him put the two kittens in a plastic bag and suffocating them by sucking out the air with a vacuum. Another video showed him feed kittens to a python. The docuseries does not show the full videos. It's still extremely disturbing.
I have to admit, when the video started playing in the first episode, I turned it off and only went back later to see the full torture wasn't shown. I'll accept if it's cowardice to turn away, but I know if I get that in my head it will never leave. At any rate, I am not the only one who wasn't prepared to be shown even the suggestion of kittens being murdered:
Don't F**k With Cats is also about internet culture and how that may have enabled the murderer -- who delighted in becoming famous as a killer of animals, and the attention may have encouraged him to escalate into killing a human. (I refuse to name the killer. He's in jail now, but he's gotten enough attention.)
But the animal abuse that's shown is really disturbing people.
Something about hurting animals crosses the line for people. They can watch Netflix's myriad true crime stories about killing humans -- plus Dateline's murder of the week and such -- but when it's about hurting animals it just touches a nerve. Some fans noted that, with others explaining that the clips shown in the docuseries aren't long and don't show the full extent of what the killer did to the animals. We hear a recap of what he did, with some audio in the background, but that's more than enough for some people. (Sadly, it may even encourage some people to watch, since there are many sick people out there.)
The heroes of the story are basically Deanna Thompson, aka Baudi Moovan on Facebook, and John Green, who met on Facebook and tracked down the killer. However, Deanna admits in the docuseries that their internet obsession may also have done harm -- encouraging the killer, who enjoyed his cat and mouse game with Deanna and John. Also, a man who was harassed online after being mistaken for the murderer ended up killing himself. The documentary series ends with Deanna looking into the camera, arguing viewers are also complicit because attention is what these serial killers crave and we're giving it to them by watching true crime docs like this one.
I'm conflicted about Don't F**k With Cats. I appreciate how it shines a light on real events that some people never knew about, and points out that the internet can actually do some good in addition to ... not-good. Thanks to an internet chat group, this villain was caught. Also thanks to the attention of the internet, this villain was excited to up his "game" and people died. I also appreciate how this docuseries turns the conversation back to voyeurs and asks the viewer to question his or her own role in the vicious cycle of consumption. You could challenge all true crime series on these points, so at least this one takes the self-referential step to acknowledge it.