Everything wrong with “DAHMER”


Tolu Oyesanya

A digitally constructed image is shown above – Copyright: Public Domain and Netflix

Tolu Oyesanya, Reporter

(Note: The videos cannot be played on the school’s wifi.)

After less than a month since its release, “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” has garnered hundreds of millions of views, becoming Netflix’s second most watched English series of all time.

The series revolves around infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who murdered and dismembered 17 males between 1978 and 1991. In 1992, he was found guilty. Two years later, he died in prison.

While the series has become widely popular and is intriguing to many, it’s also sparked some controversy. Many have called out how the series dramatizes and romanticizes the terrible acts of Jeffrey Dahmer.

The release of “Dahmer”  has contributed to the already popular obsession with true crime. True crime sensationalizes gruesome activities at the cost of re-traumatizing victims and their families. 

The series ends with Dahmer being beaten to death in prison – and due to the fact that Dahmer is the main character, it prompts viewers to feel empathetic towards him.  Similarly, because of how the series flips from scenes of childhood to scenes of adulthood, our brain connects what happened as a child to why Dahmer did what he did. But how do we know that’s the case? 

Towards the end, the show shifts focus to the victims, their lives, and their families. But does that make up for the hours of screen time beforehand in which Dahmer was fetishized?

For example, Dahmer is portrayed as attractive in scenes where we see him shirtless and working out. The character Dahmer also has a silly, innocent-seeming personality. We see this in scenes of him dancing, or when he convinces police officers to let him go on several occasions.

Twitter / @ArtjolaDerti

In social media and in real life, after the release of the show, people have been fetishizing Dahmer. One woman even went as far as tattooing his face on her body (along with Ted Bundy’s face), who claimed “[she doesn’t] condone the hostile crimes of serial killers by any means,” she’s “simply intrigued.”

It’s one thing to be interested in Jeffrey Dahmer, but to get a tattoo of him is disgusting.

As on social media, everything on my Tiktok For You page has been about Dahmer. Very few videos have been informative – most were making humor out of it. Tiktok is giving Dahmer a platform when that’s the last thing we should be doing. The most controversial video (this is not the original video, it is a screen recording) I came across featured a woman defending Dahmer’s terrible actions:

“I’m not saying anything that this man did was right, okay, or justifiable,” the woman started off by saying. “Now let’s get past all that.” 

Get past the 17 men he drugged, molested, murdered and dismembered? Many of which he ate?

The woman goes on to use his homosexuality as a reason to be empathetic towards him. “Consider the fact that he was a raging homosexual in the time of the early 90s when being homosexual at all was widely considered disgusting,” she said. “This man was severely repressed. The chemical imbalance in Jeffrey’s head made him believe that it was justifiably okay to unalive somebody so that they would never leave again because that was the only way to rectify the constant abandonment that this man felt in his life.”  

Dahmer did this because he was an evil-minded man. It’s not his homosexuality, his parents’ divorce, or his loneliness. He knew what he was doing and he knew it was wrong. 

Unsurprisingly, the comments praised her for her opinion: “This, this is exactly the truth,” one said.

“Jeffrey Dahmer was not a demon, a monster, or a terrible person,” the woman ended with. “He was a hurt individual who did not know how to properly process his emotions and therefore did not know how to act on the feelings that he had.”

However, Rita Isbell says otherwise. 

Rita Isbell is the sister of Eroll Lindsey, one of Dahmer’s victims. At the 1992 sentencing, Isbell gave a moving victim impact statement. She references this in her Insider essay, saying “…during the trial, they were portraying him as being so out of control he couldn’t stop himself. But you have to be in control in order to do the things that he was doing.”

Isbell also spoke about how the series was produced and released without the victims’ family’s consent.

“I feel like Netflix should’ve asked if we mind or how we felt about making it,” Isbell said. “It’s sad that they’re just making money off of this tragedy. That’s just greed.” 

Along with the lack of consent, the series misses the mark in some areas regarding accuracy. According to Shirley Hughes on The Guardian, the portrayal of victim Tony Hughes, her son, was not what it was like. “I don’t see how they can do that,” Hughes said. “I don’t see how they can use our names and put stuff out like that out there.”

Producer Ryan Murphy has not spoken about the backlash. This isn’t his first gig in the true crime industry; he took part in the production of “American Horror Story,” which featured an episode about Dahmer. Many films have been made about the notorious killer, such as “The Jeffrey Dahmer Files,” “My Friend Dahmer,” and “Conversations with a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes,” which was released on Netflix just a week ago. 

As of now, there are fourteen documentaries, TV shows, and movies about Jeffrey Dahmer. How many documentaries and adaptations do we need? At what point will we let the victims’ families rest in peace?

Dahmer was a purely evil man, so why are we uplifting him? Why do we keep making a name for him? When will we stop being insensitive to tragedies like that? When will we stop glorifying serial killers?

Yes, it is true – there are many environmental, genetic, and psychological factors that contribute to a person doing things like this. But that doesn’t justify the glorification of horrible people.

The victims’ families have had enough. They’ve witnessed the horrors firsthand and secondhand.

What Dahmer did was inhumane and cannot be excused. Films like this only desensitize people to tragedies. This wasn’t fiction.

Jeffrey Dahmer was a real, evil man. 

These are real people who died. 

These are real families that are still suffering to this day.

So please, let the victims rest in peace.