A poster of infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer is a prime example of murderers – and horrible people in general – being sensationalized through popular culture. PHOTO COURTESY OF ANDY PIXEL / FLICKR
Netflix’s “DAHMER – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” is the talk of the town right now. Starring “American Horror Story” actor Evan Peters and run by frequent creative partners Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan, the 10-episode limited series exploded on the popular streaming site, currently sitting at the #2 spot for the most-watched TV show on the platform. Since its Sept. 21 release, “Dahmer” reached nearly 60 million households, placing it in the top 10 most-watched series of all time.
This popularity, of course, inevitably comes with controversy. Based on the titular serial killer, the series focuses on the life and crimes of Jeffrey Dahmer, who assaulted, tortured, and murdered at least 16 men in Ohio and Wisconsin through the 1970s and 80s.
From stealing and drinking blood from a local blood bank to cannibalizing innocent people, nearly all of whom were gay men, sex workers, and men of color, this fictionalized account of the notorious murderer sparked discussion and outrage, and rightfully so.
The show received criticism primarily for its inaccuracies, as well as its glorification of violence and murder, specifically the horrid acts of the titular character. The show was also tagged under “LGBTQ+ shows” on Netflix, but received intense backlash, forcing the streaming service to remove the tag within two days after the show’s release.
Although Jeffrey Dahmer was gay, his crimes and actions within the context of the series and his being a murderer are not depictions of queer relationships, but rather of a sick and twisted monster who took advantage of vulnerable people to fulfill his fantasies. He is not a gay icon, an idol, or someone to look up to.
Although I am a fan of Peters’ and Murphy’s other works, I chose not to watch this new series because I am thoroughly appalled by and tired of serial killers being put in the spotlight. Oftentimes films and series based on murderers and horrible people, whether it be through the medium itself or the obsessed fandom, find themselves glorifying the killer and the awful things they did.
People on the internet, many of them impressionable teenagers, seemingly forget that the killer was not merely a fictional character played by a handsome Hollywood actor, but also a real person who ended the lives of innocent people and ruined those of their friends and families.
These very real stories are warped and manipulated into tales to fit the fantasy and message filmmakers want, whether that be the “tragic romance” between Ted Bundy and Liz Kendall in “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile,” or the inaccuracy-infused religious propaganda in Pureflix’s “Amish Grace,” which entails a fictional Amish housewife recovering from her daughter’s murder in the Nickel Mines Schoolhouse shooting, failing to honor the victims and family of the shooter in favor of pushing a Hollywood-esque Evangelist agenda.
Do not even get me started on the atrocious mess that is the 2006 film “Karla,” about Canadian couple Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, who assaulted and murdered three girls, including Homolka’s own sister, and kidnapped and raped as many as a dozen more. With Laura Prepon in the title role and Misha Collins as her schoolgirl-obsessed lover, the borderline torture porno will never allow you to see “That ‘70s Show” or “Supernatural” the same ever again. The film not only unnecessarily hyper-focused on the traumatic rape scenes, but also depicts Homolka, who in real life was proven to be a willing and enthusiastic participant in the murders, as a forced accomplice and a victim of Bernardo herself.
I am fascinated by true crime, as are many others, and the psychology behind what makes a person commit horrible acts may be interesting. However, I also like to read and learn about their victims. These people had interests, passions, and their own stories. Their lives and how they were taken affected the community where they resided. Their story tells the world why addressing crime, especially sexual violence and hate crimes, needs to be addressed.
Instead of fawning over the serial killers or school shooters, educate yourself on the people they hurt and why their stories matter.
Now that Halloween quickly approaches, spooky stories and horror take the threshold as people choose their costumes. Already, I have seen at least one individual at Millersville who plans to dress up as Jeffrey Dahmer. I could ramble on about offensive Halloween costumes, but this is not the point.
Imagine if your brother, sister, friend, or partner was assaulted, tortured, and murdered, and the person who took their life mercilessly is now famous for their crimes. Years later, someone walks down your street or shows up to your Halloween party as your loved one’s killer. Halloween is a time to dress up as a character you love or want to make light of, not a real person who devastated dozens.
Steven Hicks. Steven Tuomi. James Doxtator. Richard Guerrero. Anthony Sears. Raymond Smith. Edward Smith. Ernest Marquez Miller. David Thomas. Curtis Straughter. Errol Lindsey. Tony Thomas. Konerak Sinthasomphone. Matthew Turner. Jeremiah Weinberger. Oliver Lacy. Joseph Bredehoft. Say their names, and all those like them whose lives were senselessly taken, as they were seemingly forgotten but the monsters who stripped their lives from them remain in infamy. Their stories deserved to be told, not overshadowed.