When Netflix’s new true crime show, “The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel,” premiered on February 10th, it quickly rose to the top of the streaming service’s most-watched list.
You’ve probably seen Elisa Lam, 21, ducking in and out of an elevator, looking frantic and frustrated in a grainy video. Or maybe you recall the news in 2013 about a missing guest who was discovered dead in a Los Angeles hotel’s rooftop water tank a few weeks after she was last seen in the surveillance video. It’s the internet’s most famous missing-person event, with a slew of information that make Lam’s death feel almost cinematic in its strangeness.
“The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel” claims to be a look into Lam’s disappearance and the online outrage that followed.
Two people who have seen the television show were asked two different questions. Alisha Dhillon, a local sophomore who attends John H. Pitman High school, was asked the question, “Have you watched the new and popular crime series, “The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel”? What were your own personal thoughts about it?” Her answer was, “Yes, I’ve seen the new show on Netflix. It was number one for a while and I’m pretty sure it still is! A lot of people like it. As I was watching, I thought to myself why there were so many conspiracy theories. The show never gave a lot of facts but also never disagreed with the theories until the very end. I was confused but other people may not have been.”
Jasleen Dhillon, another local sophomore who attends John H. Pitman High School was asked a different question which was, “What is something the directors or producers could change or should have done differently? Why is this so?” Jasleen responded with, “I think they could have changed how they brought up the theories given by people on Youtube or “Youtubers”. It was a little hard to follow along with but I still got the idea of the TV show as an entirety. If they could have just cleared up all of that then maybe a lot of people wouldn’t have been confused.”
The following are the facts: Lam was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Her irregular behavior had been reported in the past. To treat her disease, she took four different medications. Once police noticed the pills in her hotel room, they deduced that she had stopped taking them based on her prescription fill date and the amount of pills in each bottle. This abrupt discontinuation of antipsychotic and antidepressant medication may be fatal. This explains all of Lam’s “abnormal” conduct. The countless conspiracy theories about how she got into the rooftop water tank are just that: theories. The fire escape would have provided her with unrestricted access to the roof, the water tank lid was open, and Lam was suffering from a serious mental health crisis. She could have easily climbed inside and drowned, whether she did so on purpose or not.
This is the result of the show’s hours of hype, murder, and terror. Despite the fact that the final episode disproves all previous hypotheses, the show does just what internet sleuths were accused of doing: it prioritizes imagination over reality and sensationalism over empathy. The show was generally well-received by most viewers, with few complaints.