From Versace to Tonya, toxic certainty in tabloid stories

Criss as Cunanan, an ultimately unknowable murderer

THE NEW FX SERIES THE ASSASSINATION of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story has a famous fashion designer in its title—but the show is much more interested in his killer. Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss), before he goes to kill Versace in Miami in 1997, spends his young life in pursuit of status and material wealth. He’s fascinated by opera—or at least claims to be to meet rich men—and the association fits: the form’s unironically bold emotions seem to suit Cunanan’s roiling inner life, and its lavish stagings are a reminder of all he wants but can’t access when the curtain falls.

Versace wants to be an opera too. The show, cribbing from recent-enough history to build a narrative of increasingly high dudgeon, is rigorous about its devotion to aesthetic and to its big ideas about culture and society. Along with the new movie I, Tonya, it’s among a recent wave of entertainment that repurposes the half-forgotten scandals of the 1990s into morally righteous art. Even when the result falls flat—which it often does—the impulse

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