Dahmer’s Effect: The Problematic Nature of True Crime Media


Evan Peters plays Jeffrey Dahmer in the hit Netflix series: Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story

From Ted Bundy to Charles Manson, serial killers have always been a topic of interest and conversation. Particularly during the Fall season, when the temperatures drop and hours of daylight decrease, elements of horror come creeping into the TVs and radios of people across the nation.

Opportunely, came the release of “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” breaking Netflix records within the first two weeks of its premiere.

This intoxicating tv show featured the life and death of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer; however, since its debut, many are questioning the morality behind commercializing such a morbid and traumatic string of events.

Eric Perry, the cousin of Errol Lindsey (a victim of Dahmer) spoke out on Twitter about the harmful effect the release of this series left on the victims’ loved ones.

“I’m not telling anyone what to watch. I know true crime media is huge [right now],” Perry tweeted, “but if you’re actually curious about the victims, my family (the Isbells) are [angry] about this show.”

Disregarding the victim’s family, whether unintentionally or not, is ethically and morally wrong. While it is true most people don’t automatically think about how the victims will react and are simply consuming it because it’s intriguing, the feelings of those affected should always be taken into account, regardless.

“It’s retraumatizing over and over again, and for what?” Perry said, “How many movies/shows/documentaries do we need?”

Another heavy criticism of the Dahmer series was how little information the victims’ families received before the show aired. In a personal statement to Insider, Rita Isabell (sister of Eroll Lindsey) reflected on her thoughts about watching her court speech re-created in the tv show.

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

So if it raises such controversy, what is it about true crime that’s so compelling?

Indulging in the twisted and insane motives of the human psyche, by nature, is interesting. True crime raises questions most don’t find themselves thinking about anywhere else: What drives a person to such insanity? How could it have been prevented? What could I learn from this?  Similar to the tendency to gawk at a car crash on the road, our survival instincts kick in, feeding off of this genre of media.

But alas, it all comes back to the raw, gritty, horrific true story behind every glorified re-telling. The truth is, these are real victims, who had real mothers, brothers, and children who were affected by these traumatic, life-changing events. From a humane standpoint, it feels unmistakably repulsive to retrieve any sense of entertainment from them.

So yes, although the horror elements of ‘spooky season’ are iconic during the Fall season, consider consuming fictional works of crime media instead, to ensure the victims of true crime gain the respect they deserve, by leaving their stories in their hands.