Within the past few years, true crime and serial killers have become an odd, entertaining interest in the media. Podcasts like “Morbid” and “Crime Junkie” delve into unsolved murders and the most infamous killers. True Crime Magazine has links to real, awful crime scene photos from the Hillside Strangler to the Zodiac Killer.
It is one thing to listen or read about these stories but another to watch. On Sept. 21, Netflix released the limited series “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.” The show broke the record for Netflix’s most-watched television show worldwide during the first week of its release, and “the series has become Netflix’s ninth most popular English-language TV show of all time,” according to Variety.
But why? This show is absolutely foul. With all of its gory, heavily-realistic details, it almost feels wrong to watch. I could say that the vulgarity is the main issue with the show, but I argue that the bigger problem lies within the casting.
Dahmer is played by Evan Peters, well-known for his roles in the hit TV series, “American Horror Story.” While he is excellent at portraying psychopaths, I really think that casting him as Dahmer was a mistake.
Putting heartthrobs into roles like this does not go over well. Since the series aired, there have been TikTok fan edits of Peters as Dahmer, which are essentially video clips of him in the role put to “sexy” music. There are also countless tweets arguing that Dahmer is attractive.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time this has happened. In 2017, the movie “My Friend Dahmer” starring Ross Lynch was released only one year following the end of his Disney Channel show, “Austin & Ally.” We did not see the same sort of groupie effect with Lynch as we are with Peters, but it was still not a good decision, considering Lynch is a conventionally attractive actor, especially amongst younger audiences.
In 2019, Zac Efron — whose first notable role was in Disney’s “High School Musical” and was voted Sexiest Man Alive in 2017 — portrayed Ted Bundy in the Netflix film “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.” Why are we continuously casting well-known, highly attractive actors as people who brought shame to humanity?
Peters’ portrayal is facing a lot more backlash and for valid reason. Dahmer was a disgusting criminal and his actions are unjustifiable. In the series, however, there are scenes in which we are supposed to feel bad for him or find him attractive.
When my roommate and I sat down to watch the show, she said she hopes seeing Peters as Dahmer doesn’t make her sympathize with him. Thankfully, it didn’t because we know the difference between a portrayal and reality. I am losing hope for others, though.
As if the romanticization of Dahmer wasn’t repulsive enough, these poor family members of the victims are going online and seeing thirst posts about a man that brutally murdered their loved ones. It is horribly insensitive, just like Netflix’s decision to not reach out to the families of the victims before filming and airing the show.
Rita Isbell, the sister of Errol Lindsey, one of Dahmer’s victims, wrote an essay to Insider stating that she “was never contacted about the show,” like most of the other relatives, who are now watching their tragedies get turned into profit.
“I feel like Netflix should’ve asked if we mind or how we felt about making it. They didn’t ask me anything. They just did it,” she wrote.
I didn’t know any of the victims’ names until researching it, and maybe it is because everyone spends more time talking about Dahmer than they do about the innocent people he chose to hurt. Please look them up, say their names and remember them. They deserve that.
I hope they rest in peace, and I hope their families can overcome the pain of having to relive the time in which their sons, brothers and friends were taken by the man who is becoming a sensation to the public all over again.
Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore, Flickr