Monday, April 22, 2024

Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story becomes top hit at Netflix, incites backlash

DAHMER – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story is officially one of the most successful shows in Netflix’s history.

With 496 million hours streamed in the two weeks since its debut, it trails only Stranger Things season 4 for the record of most-watched English language series in a week.

Despite this feat and the critically acclaimed performances from Evan Peters and Neicy Nash, it has not come without controversy. Netflix quickly caught intense backlash on social media after tagging the show in its LGBTQ category. While it is true that Dahmer was gay, people objected to his story being labeled as a part of our wider queer history and culture, saying that a True Crime tag was much more accurate for the series. Netflix, it appears agreed or at least acquiesced to the pressure, quietly removing the tag last week.

Another source of contention has been the treatment of the victim’s families who were not consulted or warned about the series which would very publicly expose their trauma to the world all over again. In an essay for Insider, Rita Isbell, the sister of Errol Lindsey, who was killed by Dahmer, and whose impact statement would be heavily featured during the episode detailing Dahmer’s trail said:

“When I saw some of the show, it bothered me, especially when I saw myself — when I saw my name come across the screen and this lady saying verbatim exactly what I said. 

If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve thought it was me. Her hair was like mine, she had on the same clothes. That’s why it felt like reliving it all over again. It brought back all the emotions I was feeling back then.

I was never contacted about the show. I feel like Netflix should’ve asked if we mind or how we felt about making it. They didn’t ask me anything. They just did it.

But I’m not money hungry, and that’s what this show is about, Netflix trying to get paid.”

The success of the show has also spearheaded a flood of questionable content, especially on TikTok where creators are sexualizing Dahmer by way of Evan Peters in addition to making crude and sometimes insensitive jokes about the subject matter.

It would appear that the old saying of “all press is good press” rings especially true in this case as the Dahmer series shows no signs of slowing down. Below we have our previous coverage of the series which includes the trailers and interviews with the cast about the perspective and intent of the show.

Many of us have at least a passing awareness of the crimes committed by Jeffrey Dahmer. His story is not something people want to dwell on. We are talking about a person who murdered 17 innocent people in unspeakable ways often involving sexual assault, necrophilia, dismemberment, and cannibalism. Dubbed the Milwaukee Cannibal or the Milwaukee Monster, depending on where you got your news, his face was everywhere in the early ’90s when he was finally caught and brought to justice.

Dahmer’s victims were all male, ranging in age from 14 to 32, and all the murders were sexually motivated, forever linking him to our community, whether we like it or not. He had issues surrounding dominance and abandonment, and he was continually on the search for a totally compliant sex slave, causing him to drug and experiment on his victims with a total disregard to their humanity and autonomy. He is arguably one of the most monstrous men to walk this earth, and who met his demise at the hands of another inmate in prison where he was serving a 941-year life sentence.

What makes the story even more atrocious is that he could have been stopped, several times. Dahmer was a convicted sex offender. That alone would make one presume law enforcement was at least keeping a distant eye on his doings. But even worse than that, he was caught red handed in the midst of a murder and still got away with it. One of his victims, 14-year-old Konerak Sinthasomphone, managed to escape Dahmer’s apartment despite having hydrochloric acid injected into his brain, where he was discovered by two young Black girls—Sandra Smith and Nicole Childress. The girls would not let Sinthasomphone go home with Dahmer as the boy was naked, bleeding and barely coherent. They instead called the police who not only released the boy back into Dahmer’s custody, but helped them home. Sandra Smith’s mother, Glenda Cleveland, even called the police station back an hour after the incident to check on the boy but was told the incident was “a domestic squabble between two homosexuals.”

Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. Evan Peters as Jeffrey Dahmer in episode 105 of Dahmer | Photo: Netflix

In sharing this, one of many details from the real life case, we can anticipate that Murphy in his retelling with DAHMER – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story will highlight the racism and homophobia on the part of the responding police officers led to the death of yet another innocent person. Since the incident involved gay people and was reported by Black witnesses, it wasn’t taken seriously or investigated, at all! It still escapes me how a 14-year-old in that condition could be mistaken for a 19-year-old acting on his own volition, as Dahmer reportedly told the police. The blood of that child and all of Dahmer’s victims after him are as much on their hands as they were on Dahmer’s. Oh, and the final thing to grind salt into the wound, Sinthasomphone was the younger brother of the boy Dahmer was convicted of sexually assaulting in 1988.

The 17 lives Dahmer took are deserving of honor and remembrance, which is why we chose to cover Netflix’s show, created and executive produced by Ryan Murphy with Ian Brennan. Obviously aware of the sensitivity of the subject matter, Netflix released a trailer accompanied by two interviews from the show’s stars: Evan Peters who plays Dahmer, and Niecy Nash who plays Glenda Cleveland.

“We had one rule going into this from Ryan (Murphy): that it would never be told from Dahmer’s point of view,” Peters said. “As an audience you’re not really sympathizing with him, you’re not really getting into his plight. You’re more sort of watching it from the outside. It’s called the Jeffrey Dahmer Story but it’s not just him and his backstory—it’s the repercussions, it’s the society, it’s how society and our system failed to stop him multiple times because of racism, homophobia…it’s just a tragic story.”

Nash added: “The theme of this entire piece is timeless. You still have people doing very bizarre things because they are either mentally ill, suffering some sort of trauma, managing or not managing their pain well. You also still have communities that are being underserved, being overpoliced in the wrong way. You still have communities and people crying out for change and to be heard by the police, by the powers that be; and I say that specifically as it relates to the Glenda Cleveland portion of this story.”

Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story exposes unconscionable crimes, centered around the underserved victims and their communities impacted by the systemic racism and institutional failures of the police that allowed one of America’s most notorious serial killers to continue his murderous spree in plain sight for over a decade. In addition to Peters and Nash, the cast includes Molly Ringwald as Dahmer’s stepmother, and Penelope Ann Miller as his mother, Joyce.

And as we take this preview, we also remember the innocent young men who lost their lives, many of whom are featured characters in the series, with their points of view finally represented:

  • Steven Mark Hicks
  • Steven Walter Tuomi
  • James Edward Doxtator
  • Richard Guerrero
  • Anthony Lee Sears
  • Raymond Lamont Smith
  • Edward Warren Smith
  • Ernest Marquez Miller
  • David Courtney Thomas
  • Curtis Durrell Straughter
  • Erroll Lindsey
  • Tony Anthony Hughs
  • Konerak Sinthasomphone
  • Matt Cleveland Turner
  • Jeremiah Benjamin Weinberger
  • Oliver Joseph Lacy
  • Joseph Arthur Bradehoft

DAHMER – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story premieres September 21 on Netflix.

John Hernandez

John A. Hernandez is a staff writer for Queer Forty with a focus on entertainment. He is also a writer for Vacationer Magazine and a contributor to Bear World Magazine and Gayming Magazine. He has a special love for all things horror and Halloween. He currently resides with his husband in New York City.

John Hernandez has 135 posts and counting. See all posts by John Hernandez

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