Netflix: Villains over victims


Tribune News Service

Actor Evan Peters plays Jeffery Dahmer, a notorious serial killer from Milwaukee, Wis. In this scene, Dahmer is sentenced and taken to the Columbia Correctional Facility. He was sentenced to 15 terms of life imprisonment. He then got another term for a homicide that he committed in Ohio in 1978.


How Netflix’s most recent Dahmer docuseries failed victims and their families

“Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” is the title for the second most popular show on Netflix at the moment. The first episode dropped in September 2022, and has taken many people aback as the true horror of his crimes are depicted. 

According to its Google description, the show is told “largely from the perspectives of the victims.” The show is incredibly well-filmed, with a sinister, unsettling tone that follows Dahmer’s life. However, I believe the show has made an empty promise and greatly dropped the ball when accurately portraying the victims’ and their families’ lived experiences. 

Evan Peters is a very talented actor who plays Jeffrey Dahmer.  He is also known for playing Quicksilver from the “X-Men” film series, notable characters in “American Horror Story” and the acclaimed LGBTQ+ show “Pose.” These shows and the Dahmer series were produced and created by Ryan Murphy.

 Recently, many serial killer documentaries have casted attractive actors to play the killers.  First was Ross Lynch as Dahmer in “My Friend Dahmer,” Zac Efron as Ted Bundy and now Evan Peters.  

Peters stated in his Netflix interview that was posted on Youtube that “they [Peters and Murphy] would never make this about Dahmer,” even though “Jeffrey Dahmer’s Story” is in the name. He mentions Murphy expressed to him that Dahmer was “an interesting character due to these almost remorseful feelings towards his victims.” I believe that this is evident in the very humane portrayal of his aloof, aggressive and docile on-screen personality. Peters does an excellent job expressing Dahmer’s “why does everyone always leave me” line of abandonment issues, feeling like a failure and lack of direction in life. 

This makes it easy for the show to set up the very broken American justice system and Dahmer’s privilege as a white man when it came to his convincing of police that he was seeing a distressed bloody 14-year-old Konerak Sinathasomphone. This is emphasized by the heroine, Glenda Cleveland – who in reality did not live in the same building as Dahmer – when she calls out the police for not doing anything though she’s called them multiple times.

In the show, detectives called him out for purposefully targeting victims in a mostly black area that’s both over and under-policed. They claimed he was aware of that and made it easier to get away with his crimes. Dahmer claims that race was never a factor in choosing his victims and that he just thought they were beautiful. 

According to Preston K. Davis, the soldier that Dahmer drugged and sexually assaulted, this isn’t true. Davis shared in the blog “Protect Our Defenders” that Dahmer was racist from the start. Dahmer would brag (a trait which shows when he jokingly talks about his crimes during meals in prison) that he was better than everybody else, an idea taught to him by his father. 

Ever since the assault, Davis spiraled – multiple domestic disputes led to divorce and loss of contact with his sons, an early military career ending under honorable conditions and bitterness as a result of what had happened to him and what he lost years later. He ends his piece by talking about the injuries he endured from the assault resulting in surgery – and he still blames himself for what Jefferey did. Why didn’t Davis get an episode to show this himself? 

In his death scene, Dahmer says, “I drugged them so they wouldn’t feel pain” to his killer before he’s brutally beaten to death. It was a poetic contrast to the silent off-screen deaths of his victims. Dahmer got what was coming, but it definitely made him more human than a monster. A bit contradictory isn’t it? 

Where was the victims’ perspective over the two episodes that documented Dahmer’s life? They weren’t present for Dahmer’s birth, his mother waiting at the bustop while she was pregnant, school, the animal dissections or fighting between his parents.  

According to the IMDb page for the series, most of the victims appear in less than nine episodes. If the show is shown largely about them, why don’t they get more episodes? Dahmer could appear in all 10 for the last moments they were seen alive with him at the end of an episode. There were 17 victims in total, why don’t they each have an episode? 

For example, the actors for the Sinathasomphone family – excluding Konerak Sinathasomphone – had a total of five episodes each. Yet Konerak, the slain 14-year-old, didn’t receive an episode centered around his life – what he wanted to do, and what he did before Dahmer showed up. 

Tracy Edwards, one of the survivors to appear in the first episode, was present in three. After what happened to him, Edwards has had a very rough life and has been guilty of many crimes, including the sexual battery of a 14-year-old girl. Currently, Insider has a video of Edwards in court for charges involving a botched robbery and a death. His whereabouts are unknown. 

In all fairness though, Dahmer only gets two episodes to tell his whole life story before his first murder. Guess it could’ve been longer. 

Tony Hughes is the only victim who gets an episode with his birth, life, and death. He was characterized as a hopeless romantic. When he meets Dahmer, it’s over a long course of time. The show shows a romance doomed from the start. We see Tony dance with a shirtless enticing Dahmer, they hook up and hang out on multiple occasions. When Tony says he has to go to work one night, Dahmer worries he won’t come back so he finally snaps. Moments later, Hughes’s lifeless, almost nude body is shown splayed on the bed. The show forgot in that episode that Dahmer didn’t want a relationship with a functioning consenting human. He wanted to make a zombie.

For a moment think: how can any family member be ok with seeing the character based on their loved one dead on screen? The show doesn’t hold back, but I don’t think it truly honors the fact that they’re showing the bodies of real people, not just props. 

Shirley Hughes, 85, Tony’s mother, has spoken out about the show. To The Guardian, she says “I don’t see how they can use our names and put stuff out like that out there.” 

Rita Isabell, Errol Lindsey’s sister said to Insider News that “I don’t need to watch the show I lived it.” She felt like they should’ve reached out but she knows they didn’t because they’re just “trying to get paid.” She ends by sharing that “he [her brother] knows I’m still here for him.” I find it ironic that the show displays the family’s fight for financial retribution but will not be sharing any proceeds for showing their sons’ suffering at Dahmer’s hands. 

Her cousin, Eric Perry, agrees and posted on Twitter that “the show has been re-traumatizing to our families.” 

Tatiana Banks, Lindsey’s daughter and Isabell’s niece, 31 years old, has not been able to sleep due to the show’s presence on social media. To Insider she shares the same sentiments that Netflix should’ve reached out since “people are still grieving.” She says that the show reopened a closed door in her life since she had to put together bits and pieces of what happened to her father over time. She was born after his death and never got to know him. Now she has to deal with online discussions about her father as well as victim-blaming on social media. 

Even Jeffrey Dahmer’s father, Lionel Dahmer, is considering suing the show!

The core of the series relies on graphic sensationalism and dramatizations of everything- including the filmed victim impact statements so that they can use a lot of creative liberties.  Why have actors look just like the actual speakers for the victim impact statements when they could’ve inserted the clips? Why focus the camera for so long on Dahmer in the courtroom instead of putting us in Isabell’s shoes? 

And why the hell was Dahmer shirtless while drinking a pint of blood? Don’t make cannibalism sexy Netflix! 

Though permission isn’t required. If the series was intended to truly honor the victims, an act of good faith, why didn’t they ask for families’ blessings? Is it better to ask for forgiveness after the fact that many of their loved ones found out about the series like the rest of us? Honestly, that’s the reddest a flag could get. As far as the media knows, none of the money being made from the show will end up in the surviving family members’ hands. 

If the series is truly supposed to not be mostly about Dahmer, then they failed. Now, there are about 11.3 billion views for the Dahmer tag on TikTok. A surge of costumes based on Dahmer- for kids and adults.  A very lustful community of people, mainly women, expressing their desire for Dahmer and a large defense of Dahmer apologists and victim blamers on social media.  

Let’s not forget that this is all for a man who desecrated people’s dead bodies by sexually abusing and eating them.

With the exception of Tony Hughes and the few survivors, the show failed to truly show the victims’ perspectives because it focused mostly on their deaths and not the legacy of their lives. 

10/28/22 via the Hollywood Reporter Insider Edition shared Murphy’s statement from a Los Angeles Event: “we spent a long time writing it and working on it. During three and half years my team reached out to 20 of the victims’ surviving family members but got no response.”