Netflix Receives Major Criticism For Latest Serial Killer Show ‘Dahmer’



Evan Peters as Jeffrey Dahmer in Netflix’s Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.

Otto Hellmund, Staff Writer

True Crime. It’s one of the most popular genres in the film industry in the last decade. Even though crime television glorifies ethical issues more often than not, prominent streaming services like Netflix and HBO Max never fail to rack in millions of views every time they release a new crime series or movie.

In 2022, true crime is by far the most renowned genre on Netflix, with their newest show of the genre gaining over 196 million hours of watch time within only the first week of its release. The show, about notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer is called ‘Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story,’ and it’s a ten part Netflix Original created by both Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan.   

Immense backlash came in after the release of the show due to the portrayal of the infamous serial killer’s victims. Even though Netflix claimed that the series would give Dahmer’s victims a “voice,” family members of the victims said that Netflix did the contrary. Many spoke out to say that Netflix did not consult them whatsoever whilst making the show. “I was never contacted about the show,” Rita Isbell, sister of victim Errol Lindsey, told Insider. “Netflix should’ve asked how we felt about them making it. They didn’t ask me anything. They just did it.”

Further criticism came in upon its release because of the glorification the notorious serial killer was given. Netflix casted Evan Peters to play Jeffrey Dahmer, who is best known for playing a creepy psychopath in American Horror Story, another show that depicts sinister protagonists. Quickly after the release of the Netflix series and Peters’ portrayal of the murderer, the actual glasses that Dahmer wore in prison sold for $150,000. 

For years, people online have questioned the need for areas of entertainment within the film industry to continue glorifying — even sexualising — serial killers. Not only do these negatively affect younger audiences who fail to realize the lack of ethics within sinister protagonists, but also victims who may have experienced similar events to what’s being reenacted on the big screen. For example, in the last three years there’s been multiple movies/shows about serial killer Ted Bundy, with at least two of those depictions coming from Netflix — Joe Berlinger’s biopic starring Zac Efron, called Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile, and Berlinger’s other depiction of Bundy, a four-part docuseries, Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes. All these movies/shows depicting Bundy force the families of the victims to relive traumatic experiences all over again. People all over social media — mostly younger audiences —  idolize these characters and sexualize them continuously on tiktok, twitter, etc. 

Now, people are posting Tiktoks and tweeting about Evan Peters’ portrayal of Dahmer and his supposed attractiveness. Bundy and Dahmer were both notorious serial killers who tortured and murdered dozens of people, yet some don’t understand how unethical it might be to post something of that nature. Seeing people on social media thirst over serial killers in this manner and exploiting their victims’ trauma for simple enjoyment and entertainment can further cause severe distress to whomever has associations with the victims.

Where can one draw the line between educating an audience, revealing the truth through the big screen, to just basic entertainment? On one side of the spectrum, Netflix can shine a spotlight by making these movies/shows that further assist reevaluation on whether or not someone was wrongfully convicted. On the other hand, these portrayals can often be exploitative and misleading, which can manipulate the audience’s opinion and at the same time let go of what’s ethically/morally right or wrong.

Netflix and other streaming platforms aren’t legally required to confront victims’ families when making shows similar to Dahmer, nor is it an ethical obligation, however it is certainly the right thing to do. Including victims’ families within projects depicting true crime can further build a foundation for the overall storyline, and truly showcase the trauma dealt by victims firsthand.