Audrie & Daisy, the new documentary on Netflix from Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, is a harrowing and hopeful film that personalizes the larger-spectrum issue of rape culture. Focusing on Audrie Pott and Daisy Coleman, who were 15 and 14, respectively, when they were sexual assaulted by their peers, it examines with tenderness and a sharp eye the way cyberbullying compounds teen sexual assault to the point that girls are triply victimized. Each girl, after being assaulted, was ostracized and called names; Daisy’s harassment continued after her assaulter received the most meager slap on the wrist at trial. Audrie committed suicide before justice could carry her that far.
The subterranean terror of Audrie & Daisy is that, taken apart, its small-town mundanity is deeply familiar and gives an even greater sense that it could happen to anyone, at anyplace, in any high school or middle school. But in Maryville, the Missouri town that dominated headlines in 2013, the lens also zooms in on how rape culture affects policy. In Matthew Barnett’s first interview with the sheriff about the party at his house where he assaulted Daisy Coleman, and his friend assaulted her friend Paige Parkhurst, he describes the circumstances with the drawl of a disattached teenager. “There was three guys there to begin with... We were just chillin’ there, watching Netflix. But, I’m assuming this is about Daisy?... She texted me... we picked them up... they came back to my house and we just chilled a little bit. But they had been drinking at their house.”