Netflix’s New “DAHMER” Series: Great TV or Victim Exploitation?

Ryan Murphy’s new Netflix limited series “DAHMER- Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” follows the gripping story of infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who killed and dismembered 17 young men in the midwestern United States from 1978 to 1991. 

Video posted by Netflix on

The role of Dahmer is played by actor Evan Peters, who rose to fame after his roles on FX’s hit show “American Horror Story,” a series by Ryan Murphy that solidified his place in Hollywood as the actor who always plays deranged, violent characters (and portrays them excellently, at that).

The limited series is told from Dahmer’s perspective, telling the story of his upbringing and all the events that led him to being one of history’s most famous and gruesome serial killers.

While the show is a huge hit and has received lots of critical acclaim, the series touches upon extremely sensitive subject matter, such as necrophilia, pedophilia and cannibalism. The series shows disturbing acts in great detail, such as animal dissection, blood-drinking and sawing body parts.

So why is Hollywood so obsessed with passing off terrible acts of violence as entertainment?

Why we as television watchers are so drawn in by true crime is because of the human interest factor: we love to learn about how dark the world is and have a deep fascination for all things morbid.

True crime is an incredibly popular genre in podcasts, movies, and television, so this series was bound to be a success from the start, reaching the #1 spot on Netflix the first week it was released. The series begs the question, why is it that Hollywood is so obsessed with telling tragic stories we’ve already been told?

After all, the families of Dahmer’s victims have made statements that they didn’t wish to have these stories told over and over again- to them, it feels as though rich creators like Murphy are capitalizing off terrible tragedies. Though the show attempts to express sympathy and frame the storytelling around the victims, the families of these victims were highly critical of the series being created.

Dahmer’s victims (and families of the victims) were primarily young men from marginalized racial groups, and decades ago at the time of these tragedies, weren’t regarded highly enough in society to be given a voice to speak out against Dahmer.

Eric Perry, a cousin of Errol Lindsey, one of the young men who fell victim to Dahmer and whose life and death was portrayed in the limited series, spoke out on Twitter to address the nature of the show’s creation. “It’s retraumatizing over and over again, and for what?” asks Perry. “How many movies/shows/documentaries do we need?”

Tweet posted by @ericthulhu on Twitter

Though a popular and intriguing genre, true crime has raised questions about the ethicality of creating media that depict such disturbing, inhumane acts reaching so many people- it may even encourage ‘copycats’ to follow suit.

Author Lauren Coleman writes about the copycat effect in “The Copycat Effect: How the Media and Popular Culture Trigger the Mayhem in Tomorrow’s Headlines.” In psychology, the “copycat” effect is the tendency of sensational publicity surrounding violent murders to influence individuals to imitate the acts of prolific serial killers.

Have you watched “Dahmer- Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” on Netflix? Tweet us @VALLEYmag and let us know what you thought of the series: good TV or victim exploitation?


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