Fans need to let “Dahmer” die


via Netflix

Jeffrey Dahmer, an American serial killer, is being led into prison by the police in the new drama adaptation “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.”

Jeffrey Dahmer was an American serial killer and sex offender who killed and dismembered 17 men and boys in the span of 13 years, and he spent the rest of his life in prison before he died in 1994. So why are there people now, who have suddenly decided Dahmer has dreamy eyes?

The growing trend of biopics — dramatizing horrific public figures such as Dahmer — has culminated in the recent drama series  “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” released this past September 21 on Netflix. In the past, a Netflix show on yet another serial killer Ted Bundy, “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy  Tapes,” gained popularity, similar to Dahmer. In addition to Netflix’s “Dahmer,” the 2017 film “My Friend Dahmer” also depicted Dahmer in his youth from the perspective of a classmate, and there are at least nine shows about Bundy and his infamous murders. I hope you’re starting to see a pattern here.

It’s time to face the truth. Jeffrey Dahmer was a criminal and murderer, not a misguided, geekishly lovable dork.

It is understandable that we are intrigued by violent and dangerous people — we can’t help but be curious about the brain of a  psychopathic murderer. It’s partially why true crime has become so popular; there’s something so thrilling and terrifying to audiences about knowing that real murders happen outside of fictional movies and shows. However, the already paper-thin line between that innocent curiosity and romanticizing the acts of cruelty that marked them down in history as serial killers to be reviled — is being completely incinerated by the “Dahmer” drama gasoline. 

On social media platforms like Tiktok or Twitter, viewers of the show have become engaged to the point of obsession with Dahmer and the way his character is portrayed — often while forgetting the horrible things he’s actually done. Fans have even created uncomfortable fan edits of Evan Peters, the actor for Jefferey  Dahmer, fetishizing Dahmer’s insidious romantic relationships with his victims and sexualizing him for his good looks.

Initially, Netflix even placed  “Dahmer’’ in the LGBTQ+ section of their productions, next to shows like “Heartstopper.” The label was quickly changed after facing immense backlash from viewers. While Dahmer was gay, this incorrect representation perverts an entire community and the label of LGBTQ+ because Dahmer was a serial killer who preyed on his  so-called “lovers.” This perpetuates negative and false stereotypes about the community itself — there should not be any romantic context behind a man murdering another man.

The numerous inaccuracies in the drama are just another example of how a serial killer becomes romanticized. Glenda Cleveland was a character portrayed as Dahmer’s neighbor. Throughout the show,  she was responsible for complaining to the police about the putrid scent coming from Dahmer’s home, as well as the sinister screams of his victims. The only problem is that the real Glenda Cleveland was not Dahmer’s next-door neighbor at all. She didn’t even live in the same apartment as Dahmer but in a completely different building. Cleveland was used as a hybrid between two real-life people — Cleveland herself and Dahmer’s actual neighbor Pamela Bass, who is known to have actually reported  Dahmer’s suspicious behavior.  The fact that Netflix took “creative liberties” to create a fairly critical character in a show supposed to depict the real story of a real person, is just another example of how the show tries to appeal in a fictional light rather than a realistic one. 

A bulk of the show focuses on how Dahmer was traumatized by his abusive father, seemingly framing his childhood abuse as an excuse for his crimes. Dahmer’s childhood was filled with a dysfunctional family — his mother had depression, his father never approved of his sexuality and their parents constantly fought;  Dahmer even had disturbing encounters with sexual assault as a  child. However, none of these factors have ever been proven to be the recipe for a serial killer; none of it should excuse his crimes. The show purposefully makes itself ambiguous under the title of a “biopic”; by humanizing a murderer and making him seem more approachable, the deaths of the victims are minimized. 

Possibly the most egregious part of this show, however, is the ethics of the production itself. Many of the families of Dahmer’s victims did not consent to or even know about the creation of the show, and they expressed opposition towards Netflix’s ethics multiple times when the show was released. The families received no compensation for the depictions in the show, furthering Netflix’s blunder. In a Twitter post, Eric Perry, cousin of one of Dahmer’s victims Errol Lindsey, said that Netflix doesn’t notify families during the production process of the show.

“My cousins wake up every few months at this point with a bunch of calls and messages and they know there’s another Dahmer show,” said Perry. “It’s cruel.”

It’s time to face the truth. Jeffrey Dahmer was a criminal and murderer, not a misguided, geekishly lovable dork. And he most certainly does not deserve the publicity that he’s receiving nearly 30 years after his death. If people like Dahmer are given more attention, it gives more way for his story to become vindicated. While simple curiosity may be innocent, focus and respect should be given toward the victims and their families — by glorifying Dahmer and painting a picture of a cool murder mystery with a conventionally attractive “villain,” we lighten the gravity of what Dahmer has actually done. We shouldn’t revive a person who doesn’t deserve to be remembered.