Netflix has once again brought the story of Jeffrey Dahmer to life. This time it is in the form of a series recounting Dahmer’s murders and his eventual prosecution. The show is not intended for the faint of heart as it is incredibly graphic from the start. The imagery and situations within the show are very intense, which is heightened by the understanding that they are depictions of real people’s lives. I was often on the edge of my seat while watching the show and felt so disgusted by the content that I had to take breaks. The use of music and visuals allows the viewer to be transported into high-tension scenes and feel the fear alongside Dahmer’s victims, and while this is something the show is attempting to achieve, I believe its controversy undermines its successes. The high tension scenes feel almost as though they exist simply to make the viewer uncomfortable, and the truthfulness of the scenarios makes this feeling unbearable.
One attribute of the Netflix series that stood out to me was the fact that by bringing Dahmer to the front of the media once again, the victims’ families are forced to relive the events surrounding their loved ones’ horrific deaths.
According to a statement made by Rita Isbell, the sister of one of Dahmner’s victims, recorded in Time Magazine, “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.” Isbell’s testimony provides a good example of the insensitivity fostered by the show’s very existence. More often than not, true crime media fails to fully encapsulate the tragedies associated with the perpetrators’ crimes, and viewers fail to acknowledge that the actors they see on screen represent real people. As a result, people on social media begin to flock around the topic, often making insensitive comments in regards to these real situations.
The show’s lack of consideration for those who will be impacted by its existence, as well as the media’s reaction to this series, influences my unfavorable opinion of this show. Witnessing others undermine the events that occured, and even complain that the show was not gruesome enough, makes me feel adverse to the show and the way that it impacts society. The transformation of true crime into a drama series can dilute its power and desensitize people to the genuine and horrifying issues that have impacted real people with real lives.