Crime Reporter on Jeffrey Dahmer Case Reveals What the Netflix Series Got Wrong

Jeffrey Dahmer Crime Reporter Reveals What the Netflix Series Got Wrong
Jeffrey Dahmer Crime Reporter Reveals What the Netflix Series Got Wrong

A reporter who was present during the original case reveals some of the new hit series Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story’s factual errors. This is the most recent dramatization of the life and crimes of Jeffrey Dahmer, a Milwaukee native who was discovered in 1991 to have dismembered and eaten at least seventeen male victims beginning in 1978, among other crimes. Dahmer would usually seduce his victims before murdering them. Since his discovery, the story of this modern serial killer has captured the imaginations of the American public, and he has previously been portrayed by a number of actors, including Teen Beach Movie’s Ross Lynch in 2017’s My Friend Dahmer and Hawkeye star Jeremy Renner in 2002’s Dahmer.

Monster, which premiered on Netflix on September 21, is a Ryan Murphy series starring Evan Peters from American Horror Story. Richard Jenkins plays Lionel Dahmer, Molly Ringwald plays Shari Dahmer, Michael Learned plays Catherine Dahmer, and Niecy Nash plays his neighbor Glenda Cleveland. The show has been the subject of several controversies, including a complaint from the sister of one of Dahmer’s victims that the series re-traumatized her by recreating her testimony at Dahmer’s trial, and backlash from certain groups over Netflix’s use of the “LGBTQ” tag on the series. Despite this, Dahmer has become a Netflix hit, becoming the fifth most-watched premiere in the company’s history.

The fundamentals

Of course, Jeffrey Dahmer was real, but what he did was so horrific that it seems impossible. Born in Milwaukee in 1960, he had a troubled childhood that included an early fascination with dead animals and dissection. He then murdered and dismembered 17 men and boys over the course of 13 years, beginning in 1978, committing necrophilia and cannibalism and preserving body parts and bones. He was apprehended in 1991 and sentenced to 17 years in prison. In 1994, another inmate stabbed Dahmer to death in prison.

The ten-part series jumps from Dahmer’s unhappy childhood to his murders and eventual arrest. Aside from the horror of Dahmer’s crimes, the series shows how Milwaukee police ignored neighbors who warned them that something was wrong in the killer’s apartment. Two officers actually returned one of Dahmer’s victims to him after the boy tried to flee the house of horrors, badly injured and drugged.

The show is disturbing, gory, and depressing to watch. After about a week on Netflix, it has received mixed or average reviews from critics and generally positive reviews from users.

The response

Dahmer is the latest in a long line of true-life-inspired stories about serial killers and criminals. The fascination with serial killers predates Silence of the Lambs in gruesome fiction and nonfiction, with real-life killers portrayed in films such as the 2019 film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile, starring Zac Efron as murderer Ted Bundy.

There’s an entire industry dedicated to nonfiction books and podcasts, such as the amusingly titled My Favorite Murder. True-crime serials such as The Staircase, Making a Murderer, and Tiger King, as well as serial killer drama Mindhunter, have already debuted on Netflix.

However, any true-crime show raises the question of whether the criminal is glorified at the expense of the victims. Rita Isbell, the sister of one of Dahmer’s victims, Errol Lindsey, spoke to Insider about the show. She delivered an emotional victim impact statement at Dahmer’s sentencing in 1992, which is recreated in the series.

Isbell told Insider, “I was never contacted about the show.” “Netflix should have asked if we didn’t mind or how we felt about making it. They didn’t ask me any questions. They simply did it.”

Others have taken to social media to demand that the victims be remembered rather than the man whose name appears twice in the title of the show.

Furthermore, Dahmer was originally placed in Netflix’s LGBTQ category, which typically features upbeat shows like the acclaimed romance Heartstopper. Dahmer was gay, but Netflix has since removed that label due to fan outrage. “This is not the representation we’re looking for,” one TikTok user commented.

How has Monster been received?

The show received mixed reviews from critics. Variety and Vanity Fair were harsher in their assessments, while Vulture and The Hollywood Reporter were more positive. The show currently has a Metacritic rating of 45/100. Regardless of the reviews, it quickly became popular: “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story debuted atop the English TV List with 196.2M hours viewed, making it the most viewed title [in its first week],” according to Netflix’s Weekly Top 10. It was in the top ten of the streamer in 92 countries.

How the victims’ families have reacted

The show was met with criticism almost immediately after its debut. Rita Isbell, the sister of Errol Lindsey, one of Dahmer’s victims, is one of its most vocal opponents. Isbell also delivered an emotional victim impact statement during the killer’s 1992 sentencing. She wrote a personal essay for Insider in which she described watching a portion of the show and being “bothered.” To add a dramatic effect to the show, Isbell’s statement was recreated, and she was played by actor DaShawn Barnes.

“I was never contacted about the show,” she wrote. Netflix should have asked if we didn’t mind or how we felt about making it. They didn’t ask me any questions. They simply did it.” “But I’m not money hungry,” Isbell added, “and that’s what this show is about, Netflix trying to get paid.”

“I’m not telling anyone what to watch, I know true crime media is huge rn, but if you’re actually curious about the victims, my family (the Isbell’s) are pissed about this show,” said her cousin Eric Perry in a viral tweet. “It’s retraumatizing over and over again, and for what?” he continues. “How many films/shows/documentaries do we require?”

In a Monster promotional video, Peters stated that the series aims to highlight the stories of Dahmer’s victims. “It’s called The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, but it’s about more than just him and his past: It’s the consequences, how society and our system failed to stop him multiple times due to racism and homophobia,” Peters explained. “It’s simply a tragic story.”

The debate over when and how to tell tragic stories will continue. But Isbell’s words serve as a reminder that these stories are about more than just TV shows—they affect real people. “It brought back all of the emotions I was feeling at the time,” she explained.

Criticism over Netflix’s LGBTQ representation category

The ways Netflix labeled the show on its page also sparked debate. “Horror,” “Ominous,” “Dark,” “Vintage Crime,” “Psychological,” and “LGBTQ” were all labels applied to Monster. More lighthearted shows like Heartstopper, Sex Education, and AJ and the Queen are usually filed under the “LGBTQ” label, so it came as a surprise to many Netflix users to see a show that highlights the brutal murders of queer men being billed as a “LGBTQ” show. “Why the f-ck did Netflix tag the Jeffrey Dahmer documentary, LGBTQ?” one person asked in a TikTok video that quickly went viral. “I know it’s technically correct, but this isn’t the image we’re looking for.”

“If I need to stay in my lane, tell me,” writer Frances Danger tweeted. “But anyone else thinks it’s pretty gross of @netflix to list Dahmer under #LGBTQ, especially when the True Crime tag would have worked?” “Hey hi @netflix,” another user tweeted. I IMPLORE you to reconsider including the LGBTQ tag on Dahmer, especially as one of its tags right when you open the app.”

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