The new tv show on Dahmer has exploded with controversy
Illustration by Tryn Cheng, Academy of Art University

Stop Saying Jeffrey Dahmer Is Hot

The recent Netflix show ‘Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story’ has spurred major backlash due to accusations that the show glorifies the serial killer.

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The new tv show on Dahmer has exploded with controversy
Illustration by Tryn Cheng, Academy of Art University

The recent Netflix show ‘Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story’ has spurred major backlash due to accusations that the show glorifies the serial killer.

The show “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” has taken over the internet. However, the discussion is centered not on the performances or writing, but on the allegations that the show is exploitative. Victims’ families came out almost immediately to express their anger over the show’s release and accused Netflix of glorifying Dahmer, dehumanizing the victims and putting money before respect for them. “Monster” is just one show in a massive web of true crime media that has grown extremely popular in recent years, but they all have similar issues surrounding their portrayal of killers and their victims.

“Monster” chronicles the life of infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, from his tumultuous childhood to his eventual death in prison while serving a life sentence. The show is not the first time the “Milwaukee Monster” appeared on the big or small screen; a multitude of nonfiction documentaries preceded the series, such as “Conversations with a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes,” as well as other cinematic portrayals of Dahmer, including “My Friend Dahmer” and “Dahmer,” with Ross Lynch and Jeremy Renner respectively playing the killer.

TV Film Carlos Ghosn Netflix
TV Film Carlos Ghosn Netflix

“Monster” has been extremely successful thus far on Netflix, and the streaming platform has reported that in the first 12 days following the series’s release, the show was watched for a whopping 496.1 million hours, contributing to the show becoming “Netflix’s ninth most popular English-language TV show of all time.

One unfortunate aspect of the show that makes it stand out from prior adaptations, however, is the immense backlash from those portrayed in the show, especially the families and friends of the victims. Multiple people directly impacted by Dahmer’s murders came out against the show, arguing that it glamorized the senseless killings, and also claim that they were not notified about the show at all prior to its release.

Eric Perry, a relative of victim Errol Lindsey, took his frustration to Twitter and explained he and his family “are pissed about this show” for “retraumatizing” them. Additionally, Lindsey’s sister Rita Isbell responded to the show’s portrayal of her courtroom scene, saying that it forced her to relive the traumatic event again; she also reiterated that she had not been contacted by Netflix at all and expressed anger that the platform is “making money off of this tragedy.”

In addition to criticisms regarding Netflix’s treatment of victims’ families, the show has also faced controversy regarding Netflix’s marketing. In one tweet with a clip from the first episode, which depicts Tracy Edwards’ escape from Dahmer that results in the killer’s arrest, the streaming platform wrote “can’t stop thinking about this disturbing scene from DAHMER where one of Jeffrey Dahmer’s victims finally manages to escape… and the police actually bring him back inside the apartment… now on Netflix.” The insensitive use of Edwards’ assault to market the show only exacerbated the outrage over the platform’s financial gains from its depictions of brutal violence against real innocent people.

Despite the backlash, the show remains immensely popular and has a large fanbase, thanks in part to the popularity of true crime in recent years. However, some fans have also stoked controversy, especially on TikTok, where a multitude of creators bragged about being “unfazed” and “unbothered” by the gruesome acts depicted in the series.

Such acts — including cannibalism, lobotomies and mutilation — are not only extremely graphic, but again, occurred to real people who suffered immensely; such depictions also spur further suffering in those who loved the victims, who are now subjected to depictions of their loved one’s anguish in their final moments.

Even worse, some fans have expressed attraction or sympathy for the serial killer despite his abominable acts; while this could be due in part to the popularity of the handsome star, Evan Peters, the majority of adoration seems to be directed at the killer, not the actor. By boasting about being unaffected by the gore and lusting after the murderer, fans are effectively minimizing the real trauma experienced by victims and their families.

“Monster” belongs to the vast true crime movement that has grown into an incredibly popular genre of books, television shows and movies. While some movies have been acclaimed for their tasteful depictions of the injustice suffered by the victims, such as “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” many portrayals of gruesome violence have spurred more antisocial reactions in fans, such as “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” which the Washington Post claimed glorified the killer played by Hollywood heartthrob Zac Efron.

One complaint leveled against the true crime genre is exemplified in “Monster” and “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile”: the glorification of crimes and those who commit them. By focusing on the story of the killers and curating a sort of “antihero” effect by chronicling their stories, the killers are turned into larger-than-life mythical figures rather than real people who committed real crimes with massive impacts on the lives of the victims and their loved ones.

Another objection to the true crime movement is its propensity to dehumanize the victims and glorify the killers, particularly evident in depictions that focus squarely on the killer instead of spreading awareness for the victims. One startling example is the series “The Secret,” which follows Colin Howell, a man who murdered Lesley Howell and Constable Trevor Buchanan. After the show’s release, the victims’ families came forward to reveal that they were not happy about the show’s creation and expressed objections but were ignored. Lesley Howell’s daughter explained in an article for The Guardian that “by calling [the show] a story, they trivialise the reality of these events and dehumanise the impact that it has on those involved.”

While most true crime depictions upset victims’ loved ones by bringing all their trauma to the surface, some depictions like “Monster” and “The Secret” directly ignore the victims’ families’ wishes, contributing to the narrative that they are meant to be a popular Hollywood “story,” not something that can spur tasteful conversations about the impact of such crimes. “Dahmer” is just one example of the damage the true crime movement does to those left in the wake of the tragedies enacted by gruesome crimes and murders — a reasonable observer might ask whether the intriguing nature of the movement’s content outweighs the pain it inflicts.

Writer Profile

Teagan Angell

Fordham University
Political Science and Psychology

My name is Teagan Angell and I’m from the Poconos in Pennsylvania. At Fordham, I’m in Every Vote Counts and the Fordham Political Review. I love music, movies, coffee and art.

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