The Jeffrey Dahmer Story: Good Waste or Good Watch?


Joie Evar, Staff Writer

As a die-hard fan of anything true crime, I was absolutely hooked on Ryan Murphy’s limited Netflix series Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. The plot, the acting, and the music completely took over my life, and turned into a binge that also affected my sleeping habits. Yes, I will admit that it is scary, and at the peak of many of the episodes’ gore and violence, I’ve had to press Netflix’s “15+” button. However, there is so much more to be said about the series than just the horrific crimes Dahmer committed, and the show does a great job of showing these other aspects to the audience.

For starters, Murphy cleverly decided not to direct the show from Dahmer’s perspective. What is done differently here is that the audience is not meant to sympathize with Dahmer, unlike many similar crime shows. From the first minutes of episode one, the audience is already aware of Dahmer’s malintent. There is no chronological build up of his childhood trauma to allow audiences to show him pity, or to try to understand why he did what he did. The truth is, no one knows. Murphy highlights this enormously. Additionally, unlike many shows that deal with drugs and assault, Murphy does not glamorize any of Dahmer’s actions. The show makes it very clear that everything Dahmer has done is not anything that anyone should view as “desirable” or “glamorous.” By telling Dahmer’s story in the third person, the audience is able to see the detrimental impacts of Dahmer’s actions on his victims and their families, his own family, the city he lived in, and the individuals across the world whom he influenced to engage in similar acts. 

There is a lot of controversy surrounding the show for returning attention to Dahmer, and thereby forcing his victims to relive their nightmares that have now become inescapable. Ironically, a great deal of the show is dedicated to showing the audience the victims’ point of view. Instead of a name seen on a list, the victims are brought to life, enabling viewers to attach to them emotionally and to understand the value of the lives Dahmer had taken. Additionally, the show shares with viewers how extremely painful it is for victims when Dahmer is talked about as a celebrity or halloween figure, as people addressed him back then. Even more ironically, the same Internet trolls who are trying to cancel the show are the same ones trying to cancel artists like Kesha and Katy Perry for using Jeffery Dahmer as a lyric in their songs. But they wouldn’t have even been aware of the sensitivity behind those lyrics if it weren’t for the show in the first place. What I’m trying to say is that the show proves to be extremely educational. It is not the show itself that glamorizes serial killers. Rather, it is society that is doing it. 

Additionally, the show calls a lot of attention to racism and how racism indirectly led to the high number of Dahmer’s killings. In the show, Dahmer’s neighbor Glenda Cleavland, played by Niecey Nash, had called the police multiple times for her suspicions of Dahmer. However, she was never taken seriously due to the fact that she was black. It is learned that Dahmer had calculatively decided to live in a high black population area, as such areas have low police enforcement, which made it easier for him to target his victims without getting caught. The show makes it clear that many of his murders could have been avoided if it had not been for the court judges and the police who had constaantly given Dahmer free passes, all because he was a white male. As a new follower of this case, it is unbelievable to me how much racism played a part; I was completely taken aback by the injustice dealt to these victims. 

Evan Peters, the actor who played Dahmer, did an exceptional job. Coming from the show American Horror Story, it was no surprise that Peters flawlessly enacted the portrayal of Dahmer.

Evan Peters as Dahmer

Dahmer was a man extremely detached from society––there was no charming “serial killer affect” about him. But at the same time, he showed guilt and confusion over his murders. Dahmer was definitely a very complex character to play, and Peters could not have done a better job. Dahmer’s dad, Lionel Dahmer, played by Richard Jenkins, was also a character that was exceptionally depicted in the show. It is hard to imagine what it’s like to be the parent of a serial killer, and even more so when the child is someone as complicated as Dahmer. But Jenkins executes this job wonderfully. Without spoiling too much, they both made it easy to see how the horrific events fell into place.

If you’re thinking about watching the show, I strongly recommend it. I was extremely freaked out by the first episode, but I was definitely able to take away so much from it; more than I would any episode of Friends. The show is not directly centered on the crimes and their gore, but more so around the impact the crimes had, making the show easier to watch without getting caught up in the actions taking place. There is so much to be learned about this man, and more importantly, how society dealt with him. It definitely refreshed my memory on what justice is, and how, even with Dahmer dead, it will never fully be obtained for the victims involved.

As you can see, the show definitely left me with a much more informed outlook on every aspect of crime. It also gave me the sudden urge to become a lawyer, but that’s besides the point. Hopefully I didn’t give away too much, but please, just press play already!