Why Was The New Netflix Dahmer Show Even Made?
Since its release, the limited Netflix drama series Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story has made Netflix history.
Within its first week of airing, the show was viewed for 196.2 million hours, which makes it the biggest series debut for Netflix ever, beating out Squid Game. It’s also sitting in Netflix’s Top 10 in 92 countries and has been viewed by 56 million households in less than two weeks.
Not everyone watching at home though has enjoyed the show. From how it has romanticised a serial killer, to its retraumatisation of victims’ families, criticisms have been swift begging the question of why such a show was made in the first place?
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If you’re like me and are refusing to watch it, the 10-part series is about the infamous Milwaukee serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who is played by actor Evan Peters. The show aims to tell the Dahmer story through the experiences of his victims and shine a light on how the Milwaukee Police Departments failed the 17 victims, who were predominantly Black and killed between 1978 and 1991.
As per The New York Times, those close to or who remember the victims say the attempt to platform the victims has “failed”, and have questioned the need to “dramatise or humanise a serial killer at all”.
The man behind the show is Ryan Murphy — a green light name in the industry — who created the hugely popular high school comedy show Glee, and mini series American Crime Story. His 2018 show Pose about the 1980’s underground ballroom scene in New York City was praised for its representation of the Black LGBTIQ community.
To go from that to creating a show for “somebody who is actually attacking the Black gay community” has been jarring for viewers, especially Eric Wynn, who spoke to The New York Times about his time as a drag queen at an underground club that some of Dahmer’s victims used to visit.
Netflix also labelled the series under its LGBTIQ+ vertical, which was subsequently removed after huge backlash on Twitter.
imagine clicking on the “LGBTQ” category and this is what you get pic.twitter.com/DenEW0DzOd
— Quinton Reviews🎬 (@Q_Review) September 21, 2022
But the biggest controversy of all has been the victims’ families who reportedly weren’t informed of the show nor that their trauma would be used to create entertainment. Rita Isbell, whose victim impact statement was re-enacted in the show without her consent, has expressed her pain in having to relive the trauma of losing her brother all over again.
She wrote that if Netflix really made the show for the victims, then some of the profits should be given to victims’ children or families.
Ultimately, as a genre, contemporary true crime is ethically fraught. The juicier and more shocking a story, the more eyeballs it will attract, even at the expense of victims’ families.
There have already been over 20 TV and film productions on Dahmer’s story, and that’s not including books. If you were to search Dahmer’s name on TikTok today, you will see a whole new generation who now know the story thanks to the Netflix show.
Has it been educational and helpful that young people now know more about the police failures? Well their haunting obsession and romanticisation of the murderer mostly answers that question.