Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story

An Honest Portrayal or An Outrage to Mourning Families?

Erin Yandell

Staff Writer

PC: Netflix

Our society is obsessed with true crime. Since the term “serial killer” was coined by Robert Ressler in the 1970s and the discovery of horrific cases such as John Wayne Gacy, Richard Ramirez and unfortunately countless more, we have been hooked.

People become engrossed in trying to understand the unthinkable. 

Numerous articles, television shows, documentaries and dramatizations have been created to satisfy the hysterical mass curiosity in the lives of people who could commit these crimes. It has become an addictive, gruesome form of entertainment. I can’t say that I’m any different as I eagerly consume this true crime niche. 

Media has an omnipresence that can provide the audience with a representation of society, but these representations are not always a reliable portrait of reality. Media has the power to shape stories to fulfill a narrative and fabricate events to sensationalize the truth.

The new ten-part Netflix series, “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” starring Evan Peters, Niecy Nash and Richard Jenkins, is yet another attempt to provide an in-depth look at atrocious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. 

There have been numerous other movies and documentaries that have attempted to flesh out the life of Jeffrey Dahmer, including the Netflix documentary series “Conversations With a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes,” which was released on Oct. 7. However, the series “Monster” especially has been highly anticipated due to Evan Peters, an expert in the horror world, starring as Jeffrey Dahmer. His portrayal has garnered mass attention to the show. As a fan of both Peters and true crime, I was also excited to see what the show had to offer.

As an entertainment piece, the series did well in both its casting and production. The performances by Peters, Nash and Jenkins brought the story to life. 

Peters’ impression of Dahmer spills out a constant stream of uneasiness throughout the entire series. His mannerisms convey an eerily accurate portrayal of Dahmer. 

Nash gives an outstanding performance as the semi-fictionalized next door neighbor of Dahmer, Glenda Cleveland. The compassion and tenacity flow through Nash, providing a striking foil to Dahmer. 

Jenkins took on the challenging role of Lionel Dahmer, Jeffrey’s father, and achieved it with incredible prowess. He expressed a side to the story that has not been done in other representations: how tenacious and unconditional a father’s love can be despite the circumstances. 

The show is overflowing with emotion from the indescribable anguish of the victims’ families, the heartbreaking confusion of Lionel Dahmer, and the gruesome sickness that consumed Jeffrey Dahmer. The episodes keep you enthralled in the story, and it captures new viewers with a fresh take on the story. 

The producers, Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan, succeed in telling the familiar story with their shine on victim perspectives. However, could its inaccuracies and creative liberties actually promote an authentic portrayal of the story, or do they merely further profit from the families’ trauma?

Unlike documentaries, dramatic adaptations tell the story by intertwining legitimate facts with creative storytelling. This can make for sensational entertainment, but is it doing justice to the people actually involved?

Several major details of the series contradict what actually happened. This includes a semi-fictionalized story of an actual victim, fabricating missing details and exaggerating certain aspects to push the narrative. With the goal of viewership, stretching the truth can make the story even more compelling, but what good does it do to not only the victims’ families but to the false image it gives society?

Rita Isbell, the sister of Erroll Lindsey, remarked in a piece for “Insider” that she was never contacted by Netflix about the show and describes Netflix as “money hungry,” neglecting real people in exchange for profit. 

How can Netflix claim to be sharing the victims’ stories without considering the victims themselves?

Is the exploitative world of true crime entertainment worth re-traumatizing victims and their families?

These are the questions that we as an audience must consider. As much as we enjoy watching the unsettling and unspeakable nature of true crime, it’s not simply characters on the screen. These are real people who experienced horror and pain, and we have a duty to understand and empathize with the repercussions that this genre inevitably brings. 

Categories: A & E

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