Review: DAHMER-Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story
Content warning: this article contains mentions of death, murder, racism and drugging.
This month, Netflix released “DAHMER-Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story”, a show based on the story of the infamous Milwaukee serial killer. Jeffrey Dahmer killed 17 victims, the majority of whom were Black men. The trailer for this TV series gives viewers a glimpse into the horrific world of Dahmer. Despite the series’ popularity, its role in the romanticization of crime raises concerns.
The Netflix series covers Dahmer’s childhood, how Dahmer caught his victims, how Dahmer got caught, his trial and his death in prison. The series focused on victims Koneark Sinthaos, Dean Black, Ronald Flowers, Tony Huges and Tracy Edwards. The show starts with Edwards, Dahmer’s last victim. The next victim we see is Sinthaos, who was a 14-year-old boy that Dahmer lured to his apartment with a monetary incentive. Sinthaos was given a sedative, and eventually Dahmer drilled a hole in his skull. The show tells viewers about the victims, as well as the childhood trauma that Dahmer experienced.
When Dahmer’s neighbors, especially Glenda Cleveland, raised concerns to the apartment complex about the smells and shouting from Dahmer’s apartment, nothing got done. Cleveland also contacted the police when she found Sinthaos naked in the street bleeding. Dahmer was caught when Edwards ran out of his apartment towards a police car. After Dahmer gets caught, the show depicts the court hearing. The series includes a graphic scene in which Dahmer is killed by another prisoner. The final scene is of Cleveland, who advocates for a park dedicated to the victims.
Overall, I did enjoy the series. I think it really went into depth on Dahmer childhood and how it related back to his decisions. During the end of the series there was some repetitiveness, since it was predictable of what would happen to the victims. To honor the victims' stories, I wished we could have gotten more background information on the victims besides them being hunted by Dahmer. Humanizing the victims through having a storyline before they died would have added more of a realistic perspective rather than them just being seen as victims.
Dahmer is portrayed by Evan Peters, a well-known actor from American Horror story. In this series, Dahmer is portrayed as a slow talker and an attractive, fit white man.The series received backlash for perpetuating the romanization of crime. Some of the scenes are even of him working out shirtless. Dahmer received love letters from his fans in real life, and there has been a lot of criticism towards viewing serial killers as attractive. “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile”, the Ted Bundy movie starring Zac Effron, faced similar backlash.
Besides the issue of romanization, series like “DAHMER” make the victims relive what they went through. When the series started trending, videos of the real victims’ court testimonies surfaced to compare to the show. Insider wrote the story on Rita Isabel, the sister of one of Dahmer's victims who testified in court. Isabel starts off the article by telling her through the process towards her testimony. Isabel raises concerns over the fact that Netflix never contacted her about the show. Isabel stated, “It's sad that they're just making money off of this tragedy. That's just greed.”
Hearing that Netflix never reached out to victims to receive accurate information or, most importantly, compensate them for profiting off of their stories to the public made me feel blinded from the reality of the things. I think as a watcher we should hold large corporations such as Netflix and the cinema industry on compensating families who were affected by these “trends” of serial killers. Compensating them for re-triggering their trauma, and exposing their real identity. As someone who has a somewhat of a traumatic past, although I will never be able to compare my trauma towards someone else, I could not imagine seeing my family member lookalike on screen getting murdered by a lookalike of who killed them.
To those who have never heard of Jeffery Dahmer, this Netflix series is interested in not only uncovering what is myth and truth, but shares the victims' stories. The romanticization of crime and lack of empathy for the victims by the entertainment industry raises ethical questions. As Gen Z starts to become desensitized through the content we have watched, will there ever be a draw line when victim stories are no longer exploited for those who are interested in dark entertainment?
By Camila Cardoso-Herrera, Contributing Writer