Dahmer, also known as Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, is expected to be one of Netflix's most popular programs of the year. It's the most watched series debut since Stranger Things season 4 earlier this year, and it's already the top show on the service in dozens of nations.
However, given how the real-life serial killer is portrayed in the show, Netflix keeps encountering disputes after disputes. If you've seen the show, I don't think it's possible to claim that it 'glorifies' Dahmer in any manner, but the problems with it originate from how Netflix has characterized it and the fact that it was produced in the first place.
The first issue was that Dahmer was first assigned to Netflix's 'LGBTQ' category, which often houses cheerier shows like Heartstopper or Sex Education. The fact that Dahmer preyed on weak, gay, black, and brown men made its inclusion in that category alongside much happier productions unsettling.
Ryan Murphy's Dahmer miniseries on Netflix is no longer identified as 'LGBTQ' on the streaming platform after the company did it in response to complaints from consumers.
Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story is listed under 'horror,' 'vintage crime,' and 'psychological' headings on Netflix, but up until last Friday, it also carried the 'LGBTQ' heading.
Notwithstanding the hefty viewership, the creators encountered other disputes and criticism relating the series. The families of victims have condemned the film, including Eric Perry, the cousin of Errol Lindsey, who was murdered by Dahmer in 1991.
Retelling the story, according to her, is 'retraumatizing over and over again.' In the Netflix adaptation of the story, Lindsey's sister, who gave testimony during Dahmer's trial and is depicted, also claimed that she was 'never contacted about the show.'
'The victims have grandchildren and children. If the show helped them in some manner, it wouldn’t feel so brutal and careless,” Isbell writes. “It’s sad that they’re just making money off of this tragedy. That’s just greed.”
The show rapidly had one of the most successful launches in Netflix history, which is unfortunate 'because greed is what sells.'
It's a tricky situation because Netflix also has a ton of True Crime documentaries and other programs like Mindhunters that deal with real-life serial killers, but we haven't seen quite the same degree of backlash for those. Furthermore, serial murders have been a morbid media fixation for decades in both movies and television, so Netflix is obviously not the only place this occurs.
Still, there are cries that with the “success” of Dahmer that Netflix should be doing something like making a donation to the victim’s families. However, I do wonder whether Netflix believes that by disclosing that, they could open a Pandora's Box and acknowledge guilt for making money off Dahmer and perhaps other 'tragedy-based' productions. Again, it's a complete mess.
The irony of this situation is that the Netflix documentary directly addresses this problem by discussing how the Dahmer family was compelled to give the victims' relatives all of their earnings. Third parties are also mentioned, such as the comic books that featured Dahmer's likeness and told his story and were for sale. Even though it is acknowledged that they were presenting him favorably, there is a feeling that no one should be making money off of a mass murderer of this caliber.
Given all the factors at play, we most definitely do not hold anyone responsible for choosing not to watch Dahmer. However, judging by the number of viewers the Netflix series receives every day, that seems to be the minority viewpoint.