Dahmer Netflix series strikes balance of entertainment and controversy


Courtesy Netflix

Dahmer stands trial in thrilling new Netflix series.

   On Sept. 21, 2022, “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” was released on Netflix. This retelling of the horrific life of Jeffery Dahmer struck up controversy. Some feel as if the Milwaukee serial killer should not receive as much attention as this brings, whereas others feel watching this was an enlightening experience. 

   Ryan Murphy’s new show depicts the gruesome acts of Jeffery Dahmer, played by Evan Peters, the man who murdered, dismembered, cannibalized and violated his victims. The show begins by appealing and pulling the viewer in by reenacting his final murder and how he got caught. From there, the show jumps into his childhood and family life. Through this, the viewer gets an idea of what Dahmer faced through his early years and how poorly his family behaved towards one another. The crucial aspect of the show added a sense of humanity and reality to such an inhumane person. As Dahmer got older, his fascination for dissecting roadkill grew immensely. Then, over the next 13 years, Dahmer murdered and dismembered 17 men and boys. Dahmer was finally caught in 1991 and was sentenced to life in prison. While the majority of the show focuses on Dahmer’s gruesome depravity, it concludes with an unexpected conversion in what appeared to be a forgone, monstrous, ending. 

   The series does an astounding job at displaying not only the deaths of the victims, but the heavy emotions behind them. At times, the scenes can become a bit extreme. However, the gore made the show much more enthralling. The show at times overstepped some boundaries with what was shown, but for the most part, it did a great job at appealing to a few senses while leaving the rest to the imagination. For example, sometimes what he was doing could be seen but not heard. On occasion, the crimes Dahmer was commiting could be smelled by his neighbors or heard through the vent in his apartment, but not seen. Therefore, this series was not too gratuitous. 

   Besides Dahmer, the audience also gets to look at other perspectives in the story. Glenda Cleveland, Dahmer’s neighbor, played by Neicy Nash, did a phenomenal job portraying a truamazed woman by expressing a level of true fear. 

   Not only was the acting in this series incredible, but the cinematography added an extra touch. Jason McCormick, the cinematographer of this series, took a repulsive case and made it impossible to stop watching. Between the shots and the angles, not to mention the audio effects, it all fits so coherently. Very few crime shows take the approach that this one did. It was not just a documentary analyzing his life, but rather a reenactment of the atrocious life that Dahmer lived. This series had a level of accuracy that was astonishing. From the clothes to the music, there were moments where it felt entirely real. 

   While this series had many great aspects to it, there are problems. One being encroaching on the victims and their families’ lives. Many families who were affected by Dahmer have reported that it has “retraumatized them” and upset them. The families of the victims and many others felt as if the media continues to shine a light on the rather dark life of Dahmer. The families were not contacted by Netflix about the film and what was going to be shown. “When I saw some of the show, it bothered me, especially when I saw myself–when I saw my name come across the screen and this lady saying verbatim exactly what I said,” wrote Rita Isbell in an essay for Insider. The fact that they weren’t aware or okay with what was being said and shown in this series is rather disrespectful. Not only were the families of the victims upset with the film, but the public has some very negative views about this show. It is said to have dramatized some of the events in Dahmer’s life, which confuses the audience on what is true and not. There is one scene where Dahmer takes blood from his job and dumps it all over him in a very sensual way, which did not really happen. 

   Ultimately, this series is worth the watch. While the gory scenes were painfully disturbing to view, the captivating storytelling offsets the barbaric, hard-to-watch scenes. The viewer could sense the pain caused by Dahmer, which evoked a deep emotional response. “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” is informative, terrifying, fear-inducing and incredibly heartbreaking all at the same time. This series was well intentioned and thoughtfully crafted, as well as told from a unique perspective and should be watched.