The problem with ‘Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story’

There is a right and wrong way to cover sensitive topics

Luke Appman, Editor-in-Chief

Netflix recently announced that the new Jeffery Dahmer series: “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” was the platform’s second highest viewed English language show ever. The story follows Dahmer, a notorious serial killer and cannibal in the late 1900s. He is known for dismembering and eating his victims. 

As far as audiences are concerned, it was a massive hit. The show has an 84% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, and an 8.2 audience score on IMDb. Critics, however, have found it problematic.

I personally have not watched the show out of personal choice. I had a problem with Netflix making this show without the victims’ families approval, but I will delve into that later.
No topic is too sensitive, too horrible to approach when making a piece of media, yet there is a wrong and right way to do it. So, I want to make it clear that I have no problems with Netflix trying to make this show (besides the lack of respect for the victims). I think they did an excellent job with “Mindhunter,” a show based on the FBI profilers hunting serial killers. 

For one, the point-of-view this story is told from is Dahmer’s, with which I normally would have no problem. Yet, if handled poorly it can be a massive issue. I do not want to critique the show for this possibility, however, for I have not watched it. Yet the show, no matter its intent, is popularizing Dahmer. 

Netflix’s series is making his name a household one among a new generation and fueling people’s obsession with serial killers. The show is, as the critic consensus on Rotten Tomatoes is putting it, “… seemingly self-aware of the peril in glorifying Jeffrey Dahmer, creator Ryan Murphy’s salacious style nevertheless tilts this horror story into the realm of queasy exploitation.” 

I think the show should never have been made. Not because of its subject material, necessarily, but because they never received permission from the people it affected most: the victim’s families. They were against the making of the show for the same reason I am scared of watching it. It was glorifying a man who committed terrible acts and turning a terrible thing that happened to one of their loved ones into a spectacle for millions to see. 

This is far from the first adaptation of Dahmer’s story, and it highlights the overlying problem with these media pieces about serial killers: their dangerous portrayal of terrible people and lack of respect for the victims and their families.