Review on Monster: Jeffrey Dahmer Story

Warning: For more sensitive readers, this is a trigger warning that the next few paragraphs will include graphic details about murder, dismemberment, and severe sexual assault.


“Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” a new Netflix original series, delves into the police inefficiency and apathy that allowed the Wisconsin native to go on a multiyear killing spree. The series is largely told from the perspective of Jeffrey Dahmer’s victims. The show addressed the fact that Dahmer presented as a proper, well-groomed man, and was regularly granted a pass by police and courts. 

American serial killer and sex offender, Jeffrey Dahmer, was born on May 20, 1960. According to Crime Museum, Dahmer assaulted and killed seventeen gay black men from 1978 through 1991. His methods included, rape, necrophilia, cannibalism and dismemberment. Dahmer was the typical “all-American kid,” but as he grew older, he became more reclusive and uncommunicative. His father compelled him to enlist in the army when he was seventeen years old, and he worked as a battlefield doctor in Germany. By 1985, he was frequently seen drugging and raping unconscious men at gay bathhouses. 

“Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” has become one of the most-streamed series since its Sep. 21 debut, and criticism of the show has grown alongside its popularity. Critics have questioned the need to revisit the story of a serial killer who primarily targeted young Black and brown men. Much of the discussion has centered on how systemic racism enabled Dahmer to continue killing men. Some family members of Dahmer’s victims have also spoken out against the series, claiming that it has retraumatized them. 

Netflix was also criticized after the series was labeled as “LGBTQ” representation content. As backlash over this controversial categorization arose on social media platforms like TikTok, Netflix promptly removed the label. The Netflix television series Dahmer is now categorized as “horror,” “vintage crime,” “ominous,” “dark,” and “psychological.” Tags are used by Netflix to categorize its material and to fine-tune the streaming platform’s search algorithm.

Rita Isbell, the sister of Errol Lindsey–one of Dahmer’s victims–is one of the show’s most vocal opponents. Isbell delivered an emotional victim impact statement during the killer’s 1992 sentencing. Isbell’s statement was recreated to add dramatic effect to the show, which was one of the most devastating episodes in the series, with DeShawn Barnes playing Isbell as she displayed her rage and loathing towards Dahmer. Without Isbell’s approval, the series reproduced this extraordinarily raw and emotional moment of confrontation for entertainment reasons. 

“I was never contacted about the show,” she wrote. “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. But I’m not money hungry,” Isbell added, “and that’s what this show is about, Netflix trying to get paid.”

Not only did they recreate it, but they constructed a shot-for-shot replica that was nearly equal to her original impact statement. This infuriated Isbell, who maintained that no one requested her permission to include her impact statement in the series. This demonstrates that the series was more concerned with delivering the most startling and impossible narrative possible while ignoring the very real victims behind the story.

Milwaukee drag artist B.J. Daniels told WISN 12 that the Netflix Dahmer series fetishizes a tragic era in Milwaukee history. B.J. Daniels played at Walker’s Point’s Club 219, where Dahmer targeted many of his victims.

Students at Da Vinci Communications also had something to say about the series. Athens Parducho, a senior, shared his perspective on the series. 

“I don’t think it should be categorized as homosexual representation, given how many queer people were murdered in it,” Parducho said. “And I feel like there’s already enough stuff regarding documentaries, so I don’t think we need another one.” He continued, “Since these were queer people of color, it was taken a lot less seriously because those are already communities who aren’t being treated well by our justice system, especially at that time.”

Troi Harvey, another senior, brought in a new perspective by acknowledging some of the more positive aspects of publishing a series like “Monster,” whilst still acknowledging the repercussions. 

“I just want to start off by saying I do think the publishing of these shows do bring a great sense of information and inform the culture and everybody about what happened and shed light on the situation. However, this is harmful to the victim’s families because this is them reliving the trauma, and possibly not even knowing that these things were being put out about them,” Harvey said.

Many people also dressed as Jeffrey Dahmer for Halloween, which is heavily disrespectful especially to the victims’ families. Senior Janaan Shahid shared a similar sentiment. 

“People think that just because it’s a form of media, they don’t think it actually affects people in real life. [But] when you are dressing up as somebody who has taken the lives of other people in real life, we’re not talking fictional,” Shahid said. “Nobody thinks about how it affects other people until it happens to them…I’m just saying people need to be more empathetic towards others and uphold their morals and their values because this is ridiculous,” she added.

This series is disrespectful to the victims’ families and the queer community. I was wondering why there was so much emphasis on the ferocity of his crimes while watching the series, and while this is a real crime reenactment and these events are vital in conveying the complete tale, there was no need to see so much of it all the time. The brutal reenactments of the victims’ killings have infuriated family members, with many claiming that the series retraumatized them. 

Overall, I would not recommend this series to anyone, not because of the gore, but because it is condescending. The families involved have suffered considerably as a result of this series, which added to their previous suffering. In theory, these actual crime reenactments are a great idea in principle, but in practice, they are simply too dangerous and inflict far more harm than good