The Jinx

[Content Note: Murder; descriptions of violence; privilege. Spoilers.]

Last night was the series finale of HBO's six-part miniseries about Robert Durst, The Jinx. Durst, one of the heirs of the multibillion-dollar Durst real estate empire in NYC, has long been suspected in the 1982 disappearance of Kathie Durst, to whom he was married, and the 2000 murder of Susan Berman, Durst's longtime friend and confidant. Durst was also tried in Texas in 2003 for the 2001 murder and dismemberment of his neighbor, but was incredibly found not guilty of murder, despite admitting having killed his neighbor (which he claimed was self-defense, and the subsequent dismemberment the result of panic).

That is the briefest of summaries in the remarkable life of a terrible person, who has long escaped meaningful accountability for any of his crimes, because of his immense privilege and the endlessly abundant benefit of the doubt afforded to him, because he is a grotesquely rich, straight, cis, white man.

Durst's participation in the documentary, because he wanted to tell his story and control the narrative outside of what has been reported by the mainstream media and/or law enforcement, was motivated by an arrogance born only of the most undiluted privilege. And it may well have been his downfall: He was arrested over the weekend and charged with the murder of Susan Berman. This, following the discovery of evidence by the documentarians during filming which implicated Durst. Whooooooops.

And then there was this: In the final moments of last night's finale, Durst is caught on mic, speaking to himself while using the bathroom, and essentially confesses to all three murders. He is stricken, trying hard to appear not to be, after being presented with the uncovered evidence, and he mutters a string of disjointed comments to himself, ending, finally, with: "What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course."

Of course.

It might sound explosive, and maybe it was to anyone who could yet remain shocked by confirmation that Durst did the things he was accused of doing, but my reaction was less of a gasp than a sigh. No shit he did.

It's not difficult to imagine, however, the people who believed Durst, who failed utterly to see past his veneer of harmless eccentricities to find the controlling, manipulative, dangerous human lurking below. The series finale helpfully revisited with one of the jurists who found Durst not guilty of murder in Texas, who insisted Durst is just the unluckiest man alive. And the filmmaker himself, Andrew Jarecki, in one extraordinary scene, casually speaks about how much he liked Robert Durst, and could because he wasn't convinced Durst was guilty. He talks about all the benefit of the doubt of which Durst has been the beneficiary.

So much. So much goodwill. More than I can imagine being extended even to truly innocent people, who are not wealthy, straight, cis, white men.

That is what makes The Jinx such a powerful piece of filmmaking, really. The documentation of just how powerful privilege truly is, how it makes people believe in the inherent goodness of privileged people, in spite of all reason.

And while I'm certain the film, and the unearthed evidence, has had some influence on the long overdue prosecution of Robert Durst, I note that perhaps even more crucial, if less visible, was Durst's arrest for trespassing on his younger brother's property, after his brother, currently running the Durst empire, took out a restraining order on him.

For decades, Robert's crimes were of no concern to the Durst family, except insomuch as the suspicion of his guilt made for some occasional bad press. They did not use their considerable wealth and influence to help find who killed Kathie Durst (because they knew), and their wealth has paid for Robert's exorbitant criminal defense. It was only when one of them became personally frightened of Robert Durst, when he became a threat to his brother, not just some women and an old man in Galveston, that fortunes turned for Robert Durst.

But maybe that's just a coincidence. Ahem.

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