Is “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” ethical?
October 25, 2022
Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story aired its first season on Netflix on Sep. 21, 2022. The show reached has reached the number one watched spot on Netflix in 60 countries. Positive reactions to the series behind the first week after its release racked up a total of 196.2 million watched hours. The 10-part series takes a deep dive into Dahmer’s motives for his murders in the eyes of his victims. The series was created by Ryan Murphy, producer of American Horror Story (AHS), and Ian Brennan, a screenwriter, and actor most well known for his work on Glee. Evan Peters stars as Dahmer, and other famous faces are also a part of the cast. The list of distinguished names includes, but isn’t limited to, Niecy Nash as Dahmer’s suspecting neighbor; Molly Ringwald as Dahmer’s stepmother Shari; and Richard Jenkins as Dahmer’s father.
Although accomplished actors appear in the series, critics claim it is far from an agreeable watch. There are a number of mistakes in the series that became evident once it was released. Originally, Netflix added an LGBTQ tag to the series but removed it after receiving serious backlash for the categorization. Dahmer was a gay man, however, as a TikTok user noted, “this isn’t the representation we are looking for.”
Peters often plays fictional violent characters, some of his most memorable in AHS being Tate, a school shooter, and a hotel owner influenced by serial killer H.H. Holmes. Some viewers who are infatuated with Peters have started to romanticize him playing Dahmer and his relationship with his victims. One Twitter user criticized comments on TikTok about Dahmer and one of his victims Anthony Hughes: “I was hoping they’d fall in love and live happily ever after then I remembered the name of the show”. A similar situation played out in 2019 when Zac Efron starred as Ted Bundy in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. It is vital to remember that Dahmer was a real person who gruesomely murdered 17 young men of color, four of whom were children. Dahmer’s murders involved cannibalism, necrophilia, and the preservation of his victim’s body parts. Glorifying Dahmer as a fictional television character is despicable, especially considering how the show barely dives into the perspective of his victims. It is abundantly obvious that the goal of this series wasn’t to tackle the systemic racism that has been entangled in this nation for far too long but to profit off of the vast infatuation with true crime in media.
Disrespect was not only shown by viewers of Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, it came from the director as well. Murphy failed to reach out to the families of the 17 victims before creating the show. The cousin of Errol Lindsey was one of the many family members to speak out against Netflix. “Recreating my cousin having an emotional breakdown in court in the face of the man who tortured and murdered her brother is WILD,” he wrote on Twitter referring to the scene which recreated the trial testimony of Lindsey’s sister. The victim’s families are constantly retraumatized witnessing the countless shows, movies, and documentaries being made about Dahmer, especially the inaccurate ones. This is yet another reason why viewers believe the show was made purely for entertainment and not education.
We give [serial killers] tons of media attention, sometimes so much to the point in which we get lost between condemning them and celebrating them, blaming society and a tough childhood for their criminal actions
— Alexandra Medina, writer for Binghamton University’s newspaper
Netflix, yet again, took advantage of the public interest in true crime media by making Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. The majority of interest in serial killers stems from the excitement it creates by challenging one’s sense of empathy. “We give [serial killers] tons of media attention, sometimes so much to the point in which we get lost between condemning them and celebrating them, blaming society and a tough childhood for their criminal actions,” stated Alexandra Medina, writer for Binghamton University’s newspaper, Pipe Dream. Exploiting the fascination with true crime that has been built into society over the years only creates a bigger issue. The spotlight is not put on the victims of such murders but rather on the murderer themselves. “The show simply can’t rise to its own ambition of explaining both the man and the societal inequalities his crimes exploited without becoming exploitative in and of itself,” Caroline Framke of Variety explained. The morals of true crime in the media are difficult to navigate, however, in this instance, the exploitation of Dahmer’s victims and their loved ones is wildly inappropriate.
This show is just another example of how the media takes advantage of tragedies for their own profit. The blatant insolence shown toward the families of the victims, the romanticization of Dahmer, and the harmful representation of the LGBTQ+ community by Netflix are more than enough justifications to discontinue the trend of glorifying Dahmer and his repulsive crimes.