‘The Jeffrey Dahmer Story’ shamefully dramatizes trauma for entertainment


Graphic by Elle Vail ’23

Netflix’s “The Monster: Dahmer” successfully entertains, but falls short in terms of morality and its focus upon the victims’ stories.

Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer has been all over social media lately: TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram –you name the platform; he’s received publicity for it. As Halloween nears, I hear more and more talk of purchasing a costume of Dahmer. In other words, the Netflix show “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer story” has created a lot of buzz for a serial killer. To be exact, 196.2 million hours of streaming time has been accounted for since its release, according to Deadline.

The dramatization of these crimes is underwhelmingly discussed, despite the show’s popularity. Few question the impact this ultimately has on the victim’s families and their trauma from the real life events. It was conveniently released before Halloween for a cash grab. Dahmer’s story may be gripping for a viewer, but its problematic fictionalization of a truly disturbing event that occurred makes it not worth the watch.

Between the premiere date nearing Halloween and the story largely following Dahmer and his development, it’s clear that this show was meant to follow your typical serial murder story. But the line begins to blur beginning with the incorrect portrayal and sheer disrespect once the focus of the show becomes clear.

The use of traditional horror themes such as dark settings, jumpscares and pure gore expose the show as being  in no way created to tell the story of the victims, despite  Netflix’s claims in its press release.

— Elle Vail '23

 Previously stating that the show would follow the victims’ stories not only created a let-down after its actual release, but also demonstrated Netflix taking advantage of the victims’ stories for a cash grab. 

As Rotten Tomatoes said, “There’s too much Dahmer in Dahmer.”  While there is some perspective of the victims offered, there is not enough to claim it as a humanizing storyline. Netflix’s portrayal of Dahmer includes a character arc that is crafted to get pity from the viewer. Facts are invalidated simply for Dahmer to entertain further in him having a character arc. Them states, “Like all true crime, it plays into the human impulse to understand — perhaps find a semblance of empathy in — even the most grievous acts of violence.” His first kill is portrayed as an accident; family issues are underlined to sway the blame from the killer himself to a brain surgery that is mentioned to once more divert attention away from Dahmer simply having a malicious instinct.

I cannot imagine a more disturbing outcome than having a traumatic event recreated on-screen. The prioritization of money in creating this show is especially seen with Netflix lacking permission. All in all, Netflix’s recreation is incredible for entertainment purposes, but neglects to acknowledge the real-life events and trauma that couples it. Netflix disappoints in dramatizing another sob story to make the untroubled feel safe, through leaving the real-life victims in the backs of the creators’ minds.