Dahmer documentary perpetuates harmful precedent

For better ratings, true-crime documentary producers have focused more on the killer’s backstory than their victims. “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” follows this format as well, by silencing those truly impacted by the serial killer’s actions.

By producing a new documentary on serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, Netflix has sparked a conversation about true crime exploitation and the silencing of victims’ stories with the series’ focus on the killer.
“Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” was released on September 21 and viewers are discussing the real ramifications of the documentary’s focus.
Rather than focusing on the stories of the victims who were killed by serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, as many people have called for producers to do, the producers chose to center the story around Dahmer’s motives and how his life influenced those motives.
This angle is extremely exploitative of the real life tragedy behind the documentary, which was the murder spree that Dahmer committed between 1978 and 1991.
Many other documentaries surrounding Dahmer have focused on Dahmer’s backstory before, so this idea is not original.
True crime as a media genre is largely criticized by many critics as exploitative and a way for people to romanticize serial killers.
A real-life example of this romanticization was when young women would excuse serial killer Ted Bundy’s actions because of his appearance.
Dahmer’s glorification could be observed around Halloween when certain people decided that their Halloween costume should be the serial killer.
Turning a serial killer into nothing more than a costume is not only offensive to the victims’ families who still suffer from the image of their child’s murderer being used, but it is also offensive to the community that the killer’s actions hurt.
According to Britannica, when Dahmer began his killing spree in 1978, some claim that the law enforcement of the time did not pay attention because Dahmer mainly targeted gay men of color.
Gay men lived in the shadow of Dahmer’s actions for years after he was arrested in 1991.
Using Dahmer’s likeness as an excuse to dress up as something “edgy” for Halloween is unacceptable and incredibly insensitive to those who have been affected by his actions.
The way that “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” used these stories of horrific murder and mutilation creates general audience indifference towards real-world instances of tragedy, such as the actions of real-life serial killers.
A recent example of this viewer insensitivity pertaining to “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story”, in particular, was a trend on TikTok following the release of the series.
Viewers proudly proclaimed that the depiction of the murders on screen did not phase them during the viewing.
Nobody should be proud of finding murder and tragedy such as this a subject that they can easily shrug off and watch for entertainment.
This trend represents a recent surge in general insensitivity amongst teenagers today for social issues that do not directly affect them.
Since Dahmer’s actions did not affect them personally, they create a mindset that other events like it should not be of importance to them.
It creates a standard for true crime fans that is extremely dangerous that can lead to real life instances of violence.
Going forward, producers of these documentaries need to reconsider their choosen angles on the stories they are attempting to express.
They should consider and remember their audience, which is typically full of influential young adults.
Telling the same old “what-was-he-really-thinking” stories over and over desensitizes and creates a dangerous standard for an industry that can spread good messages if its creators choose to.
Instead of using the same old format that viewers see often in these true crime documentaries, producers can share stories of how law enforcement caught them or stories of the killer’s victims.
Whichever angle writers decide to pursue is better than the one that producers choose to write over and over again without thought for the victim’s families that have to live the trauma every time a new documentary comes out.