Dahmer: Story of a Killer–Or a Childhood Gone Wrong?

Falcon Rating: 3/5 Falcons

Amy Kim, Contributing Writer

Jeffrey Dahmer (also known as the Milwaukee Cannibal or Monster) was an American serial killer who claimed the lives of 17 primarily black and brown men between 1978 and 1991.
Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story is a new show with ten episodes that retells Dahmer’s horrific crimes and their aftermath through perspective changes and time jumps.

Evan Peters, who played Jeffrey Dahmer, captured Dahmer’s character very well. The monotonous voice paired with the expressionless face mirrored what is seen in Dahmer’s actual interview tapes. The show itself walks a fine line between informing the viewer of true events and rationalizing Dahmer’s actions that explain why he turned out the way he did. Flashback scenes to Dahmer’s difficult childhood and adulthood outline a sympathetic narrative, while simultaneously showing his lunacy and inhumanness. While it is true that a troubled home life during younger years could take a toll on adulthood, it is not an excuse for such crimes.

Many families of victims have spoken out against the show, describing it as “retraumatizing.”

Viewer discretion is heavily advised while watching—there are sexually explicit scenes; as well as drugging, strangulation, dismembered body parts, and consumption of said parts or blood. Many of the murders are usually off-screen but are made very obvious by the ominous music and sound effects. The foreboding scenes will make your skin crawl.

Although the true crime show was mostly historically accurate, it has caused much controversy. Initially, the show was tagged “LGBTQ” along with “horror”, “vintage crime”, “ominous”, “dark” and “psychological” on Netflix. The public took their outrage regarding the LGBTQ tag to social media by saying that “this is not the representation we’re looking for.” Not long after, the “LGBTQ” tag was removed.

Whether creator and director Ryan Murphy is using this opportunity to make money or to reshare the story of Dahmer’s crimes, many families of victims have spoken out against the show, describing it as “retraumatizing.” Many have also said that they did not need another documentary, movie, or show made about the crimes. Every interpretation of a case is essential in gaining a well-rounded understanding. However, it should be done in moderation for the victims and their families. Rita Isabell, sister of Errol Lindsey, a victim of one of Dahmer’s murders, talked about the recreation of her statement scene, saying that “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.”

Despite its shortcomings, Monster also showed the homophobia, systemic racism, and white privilege that was and remains present in American culture and society.
Overall, the show was a very alarming and uncomfortable watch; I personally would not recommend it. If you are thinking about watching the show anyways, I would definitely suggest breaks between episodes, because it will weigh on your mind a lot.

May those who had their lives cut short rest in peace:
Steven Hicks, Steven Tuomi, Jamie Doxtator, Richard Guerrero, Anthony Sears, Ricky Beeks, Eddie Smith, Ernest Miller, David Thomas, Curtis Straughter, Errol Lindsey, Anthony Hughes, Konerak Sinthasomphone, Matt Turner, Jeremiah Weinberger, Oliver Lacy, Joseph Bradehoft.

This piece also appears in our October 2022 print edition.