The Dahmer dilemma

Evan Peters stars in “Monster: the Jeffrey Dahmer Story” which has a record watch time of over 3.7 billion streaming minutes.

Photo courtesy of Christina Nies

Evan Peters stars in “Monster: the Jeffrey Dahmer Story” which has a record watch time of over 3.7 billion streaming minutes.

The release of Netflix’s “Monster: the Jeffrey Dahmer Story” has captivated global audiences  with its detailed portrayal of maniacal serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer’s crimes. However, the show has garnered controversy due to claims of blurring the lines between honoring victims and romanticizing the actions of serial killers. 

“I think it’s when there’s no story, when it’s just about killing, that’s when the victims are disrespected,” said senior Harrison Crim. “Obviously, [Dahmer] was gruesome, but I think it was told well from a story standpoint.”

“Monster: the Jeffrey Dahmer Story” is unique because it recounts Dahmer’s crimes from the viewpoint of his victims and provides maximal accuracy to the actual events of Dahmer’s criminal career. This style of retelling can be seen as more ethical as it centers around showing the humanity of victims rather than glorifying the crimes of the perpetrator, a common pitfall of true crime. The racist and homophobic systems that failed the mainly gay and black men Dahmer preyed on were additionally emphasized. Despite this, some aspects of the show have rubbed viewers the wrong way, and several victims’ family members have said that the show has retraumatized them and brought their pain to center stage once again. 

“I don’t think [the show] went too far with its depictions, with the show being fact-based and all, but I do think that having Dahmer’s face on the front page of Netflix is too far,” said junior Josie Smith. “The families of victims open Netflix and are subjected to seeing his face, [which must be] horrible.” 

It is not uncommon to open social media and see a Tiktok, post, or video covering a specific true-crime case or murderer. This type of media is often meant to educate, pay restitution to victims, or simply satisfy a morbid curiosity, but the other side of the true-crime fascination coin is one of celebrating serial killers and defending their actions via edits, posts, and even dressing up as serial killers. 

“The line between glorifying and being fascinated is very blurry,” said Smith. “Listening to true crime podcasts and watching documentaries is not glorifying [true crime] in my mind, but when you dress up as a murderer or make jokes invalidating the horrors the victims and families went through, that is much too far into glorifying.” 

Intentions when consuming media centered around true crime must be considered when weighing the motivations behind watching shows that cover crime, especially when stories of real victims are being told. 

“I think it’s okay to [watch these shows] because everyone has some form of morbid curiosity,” said Crim. “I do think that it could negatively impact someone [by] maybe inspiring them to start that kind of thing, though.”

Despite differing opinions, the fact remains that “Monster: the Jeffrey Dahmer Story” paints a stony picture of how 17 innocent people had their lives taken due to the sick depravity of one man and the systems that enabled him to commit such horrors. Whether perceived as out of touch or informative, the same story is still told. 

“They showed enough where I think you understood that [Dahmer] was a pretty bad dude,” said Crim. “I think [the producers] got it right on that point.”