Shortly after Netflix released Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story on September 21, the miniseries went viral on social media, which means it went viral among high school students in the US.
Dahmer’s life and serial murders have been the subject of many books and documentaries, The New York Times noted. None have drawn attention, good and bad, as much as the 10-part series created by Ryan Murphy and starring Evan Peters as Dahmer and Niecy Nash as a neighbor who repeatedly called the police.
Although the series tries to explore the killing spree through the lives of the victims, many critics find that aspect to have failed miserably because victims’ families weren’t contacted prior to production.
“It brought back all the emotions I was feeling back then,” wrote Rita Isbell in an essay for Insider. Dahmer killed her brother. “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.”
But criticisms and the likelihood of causing harm never stopped a media company from making movies people will pay to watch. Nor has it stopped high school students and teachers from watching them.
From Wayne City High School in Illinois, Madeline Boyd writes in the school’s student newspaper, in a piece entitled “Alternative Meals,” “This chilling show that portrays the life and evolution of notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer has captured the attention and interest of Wayne City High School. Any class you sit in, there is almost a guarantee you will hear students and teachers talking about what episode they are on and what they think of it.”
Braxon Imber, Gregory Vine, and Soleil Rivera at Tuscarora High School in Frederick, Maryland, wonder if series like this, which tell a modified version of the serial killer’s story, are “harmless or harmful.” “By having such an attractive actor play a murderer, it emphasizes this narrative that the killer was a slightly attractive man,” they write. “This also created this romanticization of serial killers.
“As we continue to push for equality for all, it’s important to leave our fascination with serial killers behind,” they conclude. “Curiosity will always be a part of the human experience, but we must separate the fascination with murder cases from a fascination with murderers.”
In more of a movie review than a social commentary, Allison Bower at Santaluces High School in Lantana, Florida, says the movie “explains what happened before the killings and when [Dahmer] was in jail. They showed his parents and his grandma and their effect on him. Still, it is rated 18+ and may be sensitive for some viewers. I just don’t advise watching before bed.”
Neither do we, Allison. Neither do we.