By Esther Forte, Staff Writer
On September 20th of 2022 Netflix came out with its own show on Milwaukee’s most evil native–Jeffrey Dahmer. What possessed Netflix to profile a monster like Dahmer in the first place, and what was so appealing that it attracted 56 million viewers within a matter of 12 days world wide? Are we, as a society, so desensitized to human suffering that we find entertainment in reenactments of innocent mens last moments on this earth, or are we simply so disconnected to the gravity of these crimes?
Did Netflix go into production with no true intention of making a serious series addressing the embedded racism that Dahmer benefited from while committing these horrid acts of murder? Or instead did they go into production just to simply open old wounds with no true intention of healing them? Are big media corporations so blindsided with greed all they see is profit? This question was quickly answered when backlash from the 2023 Golden Globes ceremonies surfaced. Evan Peters, the actor who portrayed Dahmer, won a Golden Globe for his performance in Ryan’s Murphy’s Dahmer During his acceptance speech he completely neglected to mention anything about the victims’ families.
One of Dahmer’s victims’ mother, Shirley Hughes, spoke to TMZ about how the Netflix series caused her and her family nothing but pain. ”It’s a shame that people can take our tragedy and make money,” Hughes expressed to the outlet. “The victims never saw a cent. We go through these emotions every day.”
“There’s a lot of sick people around the world, and people winning acting roles from playing killers keeps the obsession going and this makes sick people thrive on the fame,” Hughes told TMZ.
More disturbing activities were on display when apps like Etsy, ebay and Amazon Prime started selling Jeffrey Dahmer halloween costumes as well as fan memorabilia just moments after the series was aired. Even decades later, history is terrifyingly repeating itself–when Dahmer was incarcerated for his crimes in 1991, he received a number of fan memorabilia, many like the ones resurfacing and being sold today. This warped idealization of a serial murder is now spreading on various social media apps like Twitter and TikTok with edits made from the show’s viewers glamorizing his acts of violence with praise.
Where can you morally separate the artist from its art? This is a question I’ve been wrestling with throughout my time researching and writing this piece, because most of the disturbing content pertaining to Dahmer across social media has been edits of Evan Peters. Peters has a wide fan base from his many outstanding performances, so it would make sense that his role as Dahmer would get the same amount of praise and attention. But for this particular role the amount of praise and attention he’s receiving is beyond unsettling and inappropriate.
Even though the response from the viewers has not been taken seriously, I think it’s important for us to remember that before these crimes were attached to a Netflix series, they were attached to mothers and fathers who lost their sons, siblings who lost their brothers, friends who lost their confidant and most importantly young men who lost their lives. So my question for us as the new generation being brought up in the rise of technology is: who do we want to idolize?