Shortly after its release, Netflix’s true crime show Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story received backlash for its glorification of the notorious serial killer. Evan Peters’s recent Golden Globes win for his performance in the show only emphasizes the reality of this issue.
Response to Dahmer
Netflix released Dahmer in September 2022, a 10-episode limited series that portrays the events of Jeffrey Dahmer’s life. Following its release, families of the victims spoke up to share their feelings about the show and its portrayal of events.
One memorable moment from both the real-life trial and its reenactment in the show is Rita Isbell’s testimony. Isbell, sister of the victim Errol Lindsey, became distraught while delivering her statement to the jury. In fact, she had to be held back by officers when approaching Dahmer in the courtroom. So, when seeing this moment replayed in a TV show, Isbell and her family were not happy.
Eric Perry, a cousin to Isbell, tweeted after the show’s release:
Following this tweet, Perry shared a response to another popular question raised by Netflix viewers: Were the families notified of or compensated for the show?
Cola Styles, another woman close to the case, has shared similar feelings about the show. After attempting to save one of Dahmer’s victims, Sinthasomphone, Styles felt guilty when the case received national attention. In fact, she said it took her almost 20 years to forgive herself for not saving the young boy. In such a way, she was not eager to watch the show and said that she has been unable to watch any of the films, TV specials, or documentaries about Dahmer. Styles has shared her discomfort with the show’s dramatization of one of the most gruesome murder sprees in modern history.
Golden Globes Win
After the Golden Globes, Shirley Hughes—mother of the twelfth victim, Tony Hughes—shared her rage at Evan Peters for having won Best Actor for his portrayal of Jeffrey Dahmer. In his acceptance speech, Peters shared his hope that his win, and the show, would bring “something good”. Hughes, however, said that nothing good could come of this, as the series only adds grief to the families of the victims.
“There’s a lot of sick people around the world, and people winning acting roles from playing killers keeps the obsession going and this makes sick people thrive on the fame.”Shirley Hughes, Mother of Dahmer Victim Enraged Over Golden Globes Win
Peters also mentioned the hardships that came with attempting to accurately portray Dahmer. Hughes, though, shared her confusion at his willingness to even accept the role. She believes that any actor should have declined the role out of respect for the victims and their families. Further, she believes it is unfair that producers can take their tragedy and turn it into profit.
Glorifying Serial Killers
This glorification of serial killers did not start with Netflix’s release of the Dahmer series, though. With the internet allowing those with niche interests to create a community, many serial killers have fandoms today. Online, there are social media posts (fan art, Tik Toks) praising the good looks of certain murderers. While overlooking the actual actions of the killer, fans disregard the feelings of the victims’ families. Though a satirical post, the article “9 Serial Killers Who We Would Want To Slice Us Open exposes this inclination to ignore the actions of attractive killers. Additionally, shops like Serial Killers Art on Etsy provide another example of the profitable side of gruesome murder.
Two popular justifications for the production of media about serial killers are (1) they raise awareness and (2) they allow us to understand the mind of a killer. However, it is unlikely that shows like Dahmer will educate when only showing the victims in relation to Dahmer and as a mere 2% of viewers researched the victims. Further, there is no real need for common viewers to understand the mind of a killer—that’s why we have detectives and psychologists.
So, really all these shows are doing is immortalizing serial killers long after their death. And, often, this is exactly what the killer wanted. In that way, let’s stop giving attention to people that literally killed for it.