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Evan Peters as Jeffrey Dahmer in a courtroom for DAHMER, 2022 | Netflix

Has Netflix Gone Too Far? Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story

Written by
Alyssa Triano
and
and
November 24, 2022
Has Netflix Gone Too Far? Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story
Evan Peters as Jeffrey Dahmer in a courtroom for DAHMER, 2022 | Netflix

Netflix has been recognized for releasing controversial series on true crime before, but none that have had the consequences of Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. With the release of the Ted Bundy film, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, doing so well in 2019, it's no shock that Netflix has followed this route once again with its second most watched English series to date, DAHMER. Despite its cinematic success, the series centralizing the infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer has reignited trauma in recovering families across the American Midwestern hemisphere.

What Netflix fails to advertise is that without warning or compensation, they released a series that sent the families of the victims into a post traumatic spiral, while also romanticizing one of the most disturbed serial killers to live. Eric Perry, the cousin of Errol Lindsey, (the first of Dahmer's seventeen victims), posted to his Twitter page that the series was “retraumatizing” and that his family is “pissed” about the show.

The series also recreates the emotional outburst of Rita Isbell, Eroll Lindsey’s sister, during her victim impact statement in court. Rita said that seeing the woman who played herself in the series was like “reliving it all over again” and that she was really bothered to see her look-alike on screen. Perry responded on his Twitter page saying, “Like recreating my cousin having an emotional breakdown in court in the face of the man who tortured and murdered her brother is WILD. WIIIIIILD.”

The production of a series like DAHMER creates a new perspective on past traumatic events that collectively, society does not need. When dealing with true stories, as a viewer, it's easy to forget that you’re also dealing with real people. Because of this, it's common that the viewer sympathizes with the protagonist, which in this case is a serial killer. Portraying the traumatic events from the perspective of the “villain” does drastically impact how the viewer perceives the storyline. As these are real stories, having this perspective is not ideal as the viewers subconsciously align themselves with the feelings and experiences of Jeffrey Dahmer rather than the victims and their families.

After the release of this series, posts romanticizing Dahmer flooded social media platforms as the casting of Evan Peters made it “acceptable” to do so. Using a beloved, attractive actor to play this role, although an accurate representation of Dahmer himself, makes it easy for people to fetishize his character. There have been a number of TikToks sympathizing with the events that took place in Dahmer’s childhood (as portrayed in the series) as well as romanticizing his actions. Viewers often have trouble drawing the line between the actor and the role and because of this, Evan Peters as Dahmer creates an outlet for his fanbase to share the same admiration for Dahmer himself.

From a production perspective, to follow this route of recreating true crime requires a certain ethical standard that needs to be upheld. Most important is to notify those who experienced the trauma you wish to publicize and profit off. Not only did Netflix provide no compensation for the recurring trauma these families have endured from the series, but did not even provide a warning that the series was being released. This series, on top of ‘Conversations with a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes’ (released on Netflix less than a month apart) were not only painfully unnecessary but blatantly disrespectful to those who were affected. We need to stop accepting the romanticization of real life killers in the media and recognize corporations like Netflix will continue to profit off trauma without hesitation.

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