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Why Has Netflix’s ‘Dahmer’ Program Sparked An Online Backlash

DAHMER – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, a new true crime drama from Netflix, premiered earlier this month. Evan Peters plays serial killer, pedophile, necrophiliac, and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer, who murdered and dismembered 17 people over a 13-year period.

DAHMER, co-created by Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan, is not the first time this serial killer and sex offender has been portrayed on screen. True crime entertainment has a well-documented glut, ranging from podcasts to television series to films, and there is no shortage of audiences interested in such content. True crime is so popular that it has sparked heated debates about ethics and psychology.

A day after the Netflix series premiered, “Dahmer” was one of the top search terms in the United States. However, the show has received criticism and backlash for its treatment of the families of Dahmer’s victims. Or, more specifically, the production’s apparent failure to approach them.

DAHMER – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story tries to stand out by framing its narrative from the perspective of the serial killer’s victims, who were mostly men and boys from marginalized ethnic groups. According to Netflix, the new show “will give victims of notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer a voice.”

However, family members of one of Dahmer’s victims have publicly expressed their displeasure with Netflix’s production, claiming that they were not consulted about the series and questioning the need for yet more entertainment media to relive their trauma.

These criticisms spread quickly on Twitter, and have gained even more traction in light of Netflix’s stated emphasis on honoring Dahmer’s victims.

“I’m not telling anyone what to watch, I know true crime media is huge rn,” tweeted Eric Perry, “but if you’re actually curious about the victims, my family (the Isbell’s) are pissed about this show.” Lindsey was 19 years old when Dahmer murdered him in 1991.

“It’s retraumatizing all over again for what? How many films/shows/documentaries are required?”

Perry was responding to a comparison between his cousin Rita Isbell’s victim impact statement during Dahmer’s trial and Netflix’s dramatization of the event.

In the historical footage, a visibly distressed Isbell confronts her brother’s murderer, yelling so loudly that she is eventually restrained by security. This is played alongside actor DaShawn Barnes recreating the scene from DAHMER Episode 8.

The video comparison and Perry’s reaction went viral, with over 400,000 likes and 70,000 retweets at the time of writing.

“I was never contacted about the show,” Isbell wrote in an Insider personal essay. “Netflix should have asked if we didn’t mind or how we felt about making it. They didn’t ask me any questions. They simply did it.”

Isbell also stated that while the series will make money for Netflix, none of the proceeds will go to the victims’ children or grandchildren.

“It wouldn’t feel so harsh and careless if the show benefited them in some way,” Isbell said. “It’s unfortunate that [Netflix] is profiting from this tragedy. That is pure greed.”

“[T]hey don’t notify families when they do this,” Perry said, echoing Isbell. “Because it’s all public record, they don’t need to notify (or pay!) anyone.” Everyone else found out before my family.

” As a result, when they claim to be acting in “respect for the victims” or “honoring the dignity of the families,” no one contacts them. My cousins wake up every few months with a slew of calls and messages, and they know there’s another Dahmer show on the way. It’s inhumane.”

When Mashable contacted Netflix, they declined to comment.  At least five films have been made about Dahmer’s life, including 2002’s Dahmer, starring Jeremy Renner, and 2017’s My Friend Dahmer, starring Ross Lynch.

The film The Secret Life of Jeffrey Dahmer was released in 1993, well before Dahmer was murdered in prison in 1994. There are numerous documentaries about Dahmer available, including the upcoming Netflix series Conversations with a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes.

Friends and families of murder victims have objected to their pain being used for entertainment for as long as the true crime genre has existed. Victims’ families have previously chastised Netflix for its true crime docuseries The Staircase and I Am A Killer, with some even pleading with producers to cancel the latter. Given the popularity of the genre and the prevalence of complaints, it’s safe to say that such requests aren’t always given the attention they deserve.

The stark contrast between Isbell’s anger and Netflix’s depiction of it in DAHMER – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, on the other hand, appears to have reminded audiences that the victims were real people, with real families and real lives that were cruelly cut short.

Friends and families of murder victims have objected to their pain being used for entertainment for as long as the true crime genre has existed. Victims’ families have previously chastised Netflix for its true crime docuseries The Staircase and I Am A Killer, with some even pleading with producers to cancel the latter.

Given the popularity of the genre and the prevalence of complaints, it’s safe to say that such requests aren’t always given the attention they deserve.

The stark contrast between Isbell’s anger and Netflix’s depiction of it in DAHMER – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, on the other hand, appears to have reminded audiences that the victims were real people, with real families and real lives that were cruelly cut short.

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