‘Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story’ premiered on Netflix at the end of September to a massive reception, controversy, and attention from the True Crime world.
The enthralling 10-episode show is chilling, raw, and thought-provoking. It chronicles its version of the killing spree undertaken by American serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer in Milwaukee city.
The True Crime series intensely acts out how Dahmer conducted the slaying of 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991. It has since been called out for misrepresentation of the victims’ stories and re-traumatising affected families.
“The mother of aspiring model Tony Hughes, who was among more than a dozen men murdered by Jeffrey Dahmer, has condemned the recently released Netflix series about the serial killer who took her son’s life, saying she does not understand how the television show could be made,” The Guardian reported on Monday.
The report added; “Now 85, the still-grieving mother joined a growing chorus of people whose relatives were murdered by Dahmer and who have mounted a loud backlash against Netflix’s dramatisation of his killing spree.”
On the Netflix site, the series is described as an attempt to show how Dahmer evaded arrest for so long. It goes on to suggest how a lack of proper police intervention played a part in how the convicted murderer continued to roam the streets through the years.
The serial killer’s list of victims is said to have had more men of colour, and the question of racism has been raised numerously to hit out at officials who could have acted faster to prevent more killings.
“Since its release on September 21, it has been watched for nearly 300 million hours by subscribers, and became the second-most viewed show on Netflix within a week of its release, behind the fourth series of Stranger Things," Insider magazine reports in its piece on the controversy surrounding the show.
Insider notes that although the serial killer’s life has been dramatised before, most famously by Jeremy Renner in 2002 and Ross Lynch in 2017, Netflix’s drama produced by Ryan Murphy of Glee and American Horror Story has stoked huge backlash.
“On social media, the discourse surrounding the show has been fierce, with many accusing it of being insensitive towards the families of Dahmer's victims and of romanticising his crimes,” the magazine reports, adding, “Unlike previous adaptations, Netflix's ‘Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story’ features several graphic scenes of murder, sexual assault, and cannibalism.”
Anne Shwartz, who was working as a True Crime reporter at the time of Dahmer’s arrest told The Independent about important differences between Netflix’s dramatisation and the facts of the situation.
“Schwartz was working as a crime reporter for the Milwaukee Journal in 1991 when she received a call from a police source to say they had found a human head and body parts inside a city apartment,” The Independent noted on the harrowing events of the night of Dahmer’s arrest.
“Rushing to the scene, Schwartz said she arrived to find just a few police officers there and entered the Oxford Apartments building for a closer look.”
Shwartz told The Independent that the filmmakers behind the show took “artistic license” with many key details, saying the series “does not bear a great deal of resemblance to the facts of the case”.
She added that the depiction of city police officers as racist and homophobic in the limited series was incorrect.
“Again this is a dramatisation, but at a time when it is not exactly easy for law enforcement to get trust and buy-in from the community, it is not a very helpful representation.”
Actor Evan Peters skilfully played the role of Dahmer in the hugely successful series. He revealed in an interview that one key rule the producer insisted be followed was avoiding focusing on the serial killer’s point of view.
He noted that the show did not seek to humanise Dahmer or get audiences to sympathise with him in any way.
"As an audience, you are not sympathising with him. You are not getting into his plight, you are more sort of watching it from the outside," Peters said.
He added: "It is called The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, but it is not just him and his backstory. It is the repercussions; it is how society and our system failed to stop him multiple times, because of racism and homophobia. The Jeffrey Dahmer story is so much bigger than just him."
Rita Isbell, the sister of one of Dahmer’s victims, Errol Lindsey has had to relieve the painful feelings and memories of testifying at Dahmer’s trial in 1992.
The emotional statement she gave in court has gone viral on social media, especially Tik-Tok, after being re-enacted on the Netflix series.
Dressed the same way she was that day, actress Dashawn Barnes portrays the heart-breaking scene where Isbell faced her brother’s killer.
“I planned to get up there and say how it made my mother feel and what it did to her and all this other stuff. But no, when I got in front of his face it was a whole new ball game. I recognised evil. I was face-to-face with pure evil,” she told Insider magazine.
She added: “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.”
“If I did not know any better, I would have thought it was me. Her hair was like mine, she had on the same clothes. That is why it felt like reliving it all over again. It brought back all the emotions I was feeling back then."