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Serial Killers Under the Spotlight

How Netflix’s dramatization of serial killers renders the victim’s families invisible

By Jodie Mackay


Photo courtesy Brandon Anderson via Flickr


First dropped on Netflix on the 21st September, ’Dahmer - Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story’ sent a ripple through our society. On the day after its release, ’Jeffrey Dahmer’ was the most searched term on the entirety of Google for that day, also, it became Netflix’s second most-watched English-language series of all time with over 792 million hours of streaming!

Once serial killer, now a movie star, the world has lost the plot

To say the least, the Dahmer show has made somewhat of an impact, it felt like it was everywhere. Now, imagine what it must be like to see the man who brutally murdered your son all over the internet, he’s getting his own movie, and people love it?

Once serial killer, now a movie star, the world has lost the plot.

It is disgusting that Netflix is able to capitalise off of people’s trauma’s like this

It is vital to note that the victim’s families were not consulted before the making of Dahmer. Eric Perry, the cousin of Dahmer’s victim Errol Lindsey, spoke to Insider about how his family were not made aware of the production of the show. He told them ‘My family found out when everyone else did’. Errol’s sister, Rita Isbell even said how watching the show was like ‘reliving it all over again.’ It is disgusting that Netflix is able to capitalise off of people’s trauma’s like this, not only because they are exploiting their suffering but because they are forcing them to relive their trauma over and over again. Netflix only succeeds in perpetuating a narrative when it is not necessary; let the victims choose when they want their story told instead of throwing it needlessly out for the consumption of millions!

Let the victims choose when they want their story told instead of throwing it needlessly out for the consumption of millions

One of the main defences of the show is that it was curated to give a voice to the victims and their families. Evan Peters, who plays Dahmer and creator Ryan Murphy have both insisted that the show strived to put the victim’s stories and their families’ trauma at the heart of the production. Peters himself states in a recent interview that, ‘you need to have certain plot points…but you don’t need to embellish them… we don't need to see it over and over again.’ In context, Peters is talking about the show’s choice not to place focus on graphic murder scenes, yet the creation of the show is absolutely contributing to this regurgitative traumatic cycle and is a slap in the face for Rita Isbell and those like her. In hindsight it was only five years ago that the movie, My Friend Dahmer, starring another heartthrob, Ross Lynch, was released; Netflix just saw an opportunity.

Healing must feel impossible enough without being force-fed your traumatic memories. Maybe it is time to take the focus off serial killers and leave the families in peace.

Furthermore, the victim’s stories fall secondary to that of Dahmer’s. I mean, the show is literally called ’Dahmer - The Jeffrey Dahmer Story’; on the Netflix homepage a large banner for Dahmer can be seen, his villainous face glowing in yellow ambience. Unarguably, the spotlight is on him. The victim’s stories are only told when it is seen fit to capitalise off of Dahmer again. Healing must feel impossible enough without being force-fed your traumatic memories. Maybe it is time to take the focus off serial killers and leave the families in peace.


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