A Gratuitous Attempt at Real-World Storytelling

by Carson Delarosa (he/him

“Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” Netflix’s recent thriller, hit the streaming platform on Sept. 21, fails to offer new insight into the serial killer’s life and heinous crimes he committed, instead becoming incredibly gratuitous and disrespectful. Dahmer, an American serial killer active from 1978 to his arrest in 1991, became an infamous example of the flawed police system and one of the most gruesome and tragic cases in American history.

“Monster” follows Dahmer through his life, from his actions as a young boy to his death in prison. While the show’s execution of what happened during Dahmer’s life is incredibly accurate and impressive from a story-telling perspective, it is incredibly traumatizing for the people affected by this man. Netflix created a tension-filled, disturbing and graphic retelling of Dahmer’s killings without asking the relatives if they were okay with them detailing the explicit deaths of their loved ones.

For me, the worst part of this show was knowing people would start romanticizing Dahmer and Evan Peters before I saw a single post on the matter. It has happened several times with “attractive” actors playing real-life killers, like with Zach Efron’s portrayal of Ted Bundy. There is so much Evan Peters content out there and seeing these Dahmer “thirst traps” is a slap in the face to any close relatives of his victims.

With the controversies and complaints aside, what is the show’s purpose? The show focuses heavily on Dahmer’s upbringing and unfortunate circumstances, but real life psychologists (as quoted on the show) agree that isn’t what triggered Dahmer’s violent tendencies. The main reason why Dahmer is such an interesting case is because he knew what he did was wrong and continuously said that his upbringings and parents were not to blame for his crimes. Even worse, they frame Dahmer’s death in the show as sympathetic and sad, surrounded by somber music and a build-up after his baptism, almost like they want the audience to root for him.

My biggest gripe with this show is that it is clearly made for the surging interest in true crime. While yes, I do find true crime to be compelling, it should not be capitalized on and made into entertainment and thrillers. There are real people whose lives were destroyed at the hands of Jeffrey Dahmer and Netflix is making a profit off of him and them. This show and Netflix’s “The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes,” released within just a month of each other, seem like Netflix milking the Dahmer case for all its worth.

Another thing that particularly infuriates me is why no one during the production of this show stopped and asked themselves, “What the hell are we making?” I do not see any sense of morality in anyone involved with this project. I love Evan Peters, but are you kidding me? Why accept such an offensive role? And where are the profits going? Netflix. I could not care less how much money it makes, have some decency. No donations were made to any foundations, charities or any of the victims’ families, not even a contribution to the promised memorial park that was never built in place of Dahmer’s apartment building.

Instead of making Jeffrey Dahmer the protagonist of this story, they could have detailed each victim’s life in an episode, humanizing the victims rather than Dahmer. They already made Tony Hughes the protagonist of episode six, “Silenced,” with Dahmer as more of a background piece. Episodes like this, without a scene alluding to their death, would have been much more in taste. Of course, this might require asking the families for permission to create such a show, which they already did not do.

At what point do we ask ourselves, when will we stop rehashing the same tragedy? I understand that it is important to remember those lost and tortured, but it should not be dwelled on. I hate how true crime is a “trend” to watch instead of a genuine tragedy that stays at that, with no dramatization and capitalization. The only thing we should take from a case like this is the psychology behind someone as complex as Jeffrey Dahmer and empathy for his victims' families. This show should never have been made and is another example of big-budget corporations profiting from tragedy.