Netflix‘s “Dahmer” series, which chronicles the horrific crimes of arguably the most well-known serial killer in American history, Jeffrey Dahmer, has been the source of controversy since it aired last week. Some people who say they can’t stomach watching the drama series also appear to believe those who can are insensitive to or amused by trauma, while folks who do choose to watch the series are simply disinterested in being pseudo-psychoanalyzed by those who don’t.
But beyond the debate about viewing the series, there’s the question of the ethics behind making and profiting off of a Dahmer-based series in the first place. And more importantly, was it ethical to for this series to be produced and aired without the living family members of Dahmer’s victims signing off on it or even being notified?
From Slash Film:
Following the show’s premiere, Eric Perry, cousin of Jeffrey Dahmer victim Errol Lindsey, took to social media to voice his disgust with Netflix and the creative choices in “Dahmer.” In a quote tweet that compares a scene from the Netflix series to the real courtroom footage from Dahmer’s trial, Perry condemned the show, arguing “it’s retraumatizing over and over again, and for what? How many movies/shows/documentaries do we need?”
Perry further pointed to the lack of sensitivity toward the living, many of whom are depicted in the series — without their knowledge, let alone consent. As he explains, because the information is all public record, there was no obligation or requirement for Ryan Murphy Productions to contact those involved in the story, so his “family found out when everyone else did.” Using actual trauma for the sake of entertainment can easily cross the line into exploitation; as Perry states in a tweet, “Recreating my cousin having an emotional breakdown in court in the face of the man who tortured and murdered her brother is WILD.”
This is significant when we talk about the morality (or lack thereof, some will argue) of creating a series like “Dahmer,” or any other series like it when the living victims and their families are left out of the process and not even consulted. It shouldn’t be hard to understand why that comes off like cold, capitalist Hollywood sh-t.
Then again, it could also be argued that we regularly enjoy crime documentaries and series based on true events (mob/gangster movies, sex abuse docs/films/series, police shooting depictions, etc.) without bothering to ask or even think about whether all the victims’ loved ones were notified. It could be argued that serial killer-based programs are an arbitrary place to draw the line.
Still, can you imagine having lost a close family member in such a horrific way and then seeing that relative’s case being dramatized on a massive platform like Netflix? Can you imagine seeing a family member who testified in a case like Dahmer’s being depicted by an actor who resembles and dresses just like them? To say that would be a jarring experience is an obvious understatement.
So, what do y’all think about all this? Are you watching the series and if not, are you judging those who are?
See how Twitter’s reacting to the new series below.