October is now in full swing, and with that comes Halloween. Media revolving around the likes of Ted Bundy and Jack the Ripper start re-circulating the internet. Although, this time around, people have had a particular obsession with Jeffrey Dahmer: The Milwaukee Monster. We have seen so many adaptations to his story come and go, and not surprisingly, Netflix recently released another one: Monster-The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. The series addresses how he notoriously killed 17 men and boys of color.
Haven’t we seen enough? There have been quite a few adaptations in the past. These cinematic adaptations are sickening to watch and they have helped keep the story alive. We must not forget his atrocities and the institutions in place that allowed him to get away with it. In truth, if it weren’t for the release of the new series, I would have never known that he targeted people of color or the role that the police played through their negligence. I think that this story is an essential lesson in history that we shouldn’t make the mistake of forgetting. However, I worry that not addressing the truth of what happened is erasure.
This being said, I am tired and disgusted with the approach we have taken in these adaptations. When we centralize him in these adaptations, we are taking the focus away from the horrors that were committed. It gives him this appeal as if he is a misunderstood individual, which somehow makes the murders he committed justified. It allows people to romanticize him as if he is some damaged, yet loveable main character. Let’s not forget he is a killer, one who recognized his actions as wrong yet continued anyways.
We should approach the story from a different perspective, such as bringing light to the victims and their families; giving them a platform, and not just for one episode. Why not dig deeper into the police and how our nation’s institutions failed these people? Why are we trying to humanize Dahmer instead of the men and boys he killed? These people had families that suffered a significant loss from their passing. Why not give space to allow the victim’s families to heal and not have to relive their trauma in such a poor fashion?
Rita Isabell, sister to one of the victims, came out with an essay (Insider) in which she stated how she would have felt better about the Netflix series if it had somehow benefited the victims’ families. They are still affected by what happened and the cinematic adaptations; thus, Netflix should have been more sensitive to their wishes. They could have at least provided financial compensation to the descendants of said victims.
Netflix benefited from the internet’s fascination with true crime and decided to capitalize on that by making a drama series about this story. They failed to recognize that it’s not just about Dahmer; it involves many more people. Their interpretation was distasteful. We should be telling the whole story.