Dahmer, a true crime drama revolving around the infamous and psychotic serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer, has recently been the newest craze on Netflix. Ryan Murphy’s new hit true crime series has had its fair share of viewership on Netflix, most recently being named as No. 2 on the all-time Netflix English language series chart.
Monster: the Jeffrey Dahmer Story, revolves around American serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer. Dahmer, also known as the “Milwaukee Cannibal”, committed gruesome murders and engaged in the act of cannibalism, and took the lives of 17 young men from 1978-1991 when he was eventually caught and arrested in 1991. After investigations surrounding each murder, Dahmer was eventually senetenced to 16 terms of life imprisonment; locking up the psychotic killer for good. In November of 1994, Dahmer was beaten to death by fellow inmate, Christopher Scarver.
Actor Evan Peters portrays the role of Jeffrey Dahmer in the docuseries, and he portrays what a sick and deranged individual Dahmer had been made out to be. Throughout the series, the story is mainly told from Dahmer’s point of view. While the show mainly focuses on the murders that were committed in his adult life, flash backs to his childhood growing up in Ohio are also present throughout the ten part series to try to give some insight into what might’ve led to Dahmer’s serial killer motives.
As part of their main focus, the show delves into the point of view from some of Dahmer’s victims as well and to tell the story of the victims. One of Dahmer’s victims, Tony Hughes a deaf man and aspiring model, was given the chance to actually “tell” his story. Episode six revolves around the interactions between Hughes and Dahmer before his murder. It was an agonizing story, showing Tony from his birth through his “relationship” with Dahmer, but his story tragically ends the same way that all of Dahmer’s other victims ended.
One of the aspects that make Dahmer’s story of his murders notable was with his racist approach to the men that he murdered. While it is true that Dahmer was gay, he mainly targeted young, gay men of color. The majority of his victims were young men of color and his motive behind killing these men was that fact that he believed he could get away with these murders since they were the people in society that no one would ever go out to look for. That motive was highlighted mostly by the police brutality to people of color around the time that Dahmer’s murders took place.
A common reception of Monster: the Jeffrey Dahmer Story is the glorification of Dahmer from its viewers on Netflix. One of the most disgusting aspects of the show to me was when Dahmer was receiving gifts and letters from his “fans” while in jail. But instead of Dahmer receiving gifts, letters and even money from his supposed fans, Dahmer is receiving sympathy.
While I can credit Evan Peters and how well he is able to portray Dahmer and the amount of research it took for him to nail his unsettling and disturbing personality, it’s important to note that Dahmer as a person should not be receiving any type of sympathy whatsoever. The story that the series was trying to portray— to steer away from just focusing on Dahmer and his crimes and rather focus more on the story of his victims and the aftermath he left on a community— now seems to be overshadowed by the fact that he is actually receiving sympathy. According to director Ryan Murphy, he stated that his one rule in creating the series was “That it would never be told from Dahmer’s point of view.”
Social media is the main culprit for this sympathetic interpretation of Dahmer. Unfortunately, part of the problem lies with Evan Peters himself. Peters is a young, good looking actor, and viewers of Dahmer have taken his acting performance to heart instead of looking at the bigger picture for the series overall. Users on social media, most notably, TikTok, have reportedly been called out for “thirsting” over Dahmer, commenting that they “feel sorry” for him.
One TikTok user commented, “I felt sorry for him. He was clearly failed by everyone who was supposed to help him.” In response to several of the same comments, another user replied, “You can recognise how the system failed him, but at the end of the day, he still chose to do what he did.” In the end, it seems as if Ryan Murphy’s reasoning for creating such a series was lost in translation by millions of viewers.
Most recently, some of the biggest critiques of the Dahmer series have come from none other than Lionel Dahmer himself, Jeffrey Dahmer’s father. Lionel, along with several others involved in Dahmer’s crimes, including the families of his victims, were never contacted about the Netflix series. As a result, Lionel Dahmer wants to sue Netflix for putting out the series dramatizing the murders committed by his son.
Lionel isn’t the only person involved who has spoken out against one of Netflix’s newest hit series. Ritel Isbell, the sister of Errol Lindsey—one of Dahmer’s victims— also spoke out against Netflix releasing the Dahmer series, “I was never contacted about the show… I feel like Netflix should’ve asked if we mind or how we felt about making it. They didn’t ask me anything. They just did it.”
Overall, I enjoyed watching Dahmer. From only hearing mentions of his name here and there, I was never able to fully grasp what an awful and disgusting human being he was, and the series was definitely able to portray that message.