[Trigger Warning] The following article contains acts of cruelty and violence. Reader discretion is advised.
I opened my laptop, exhausted from all the classes at college, (not) ready to log in to another class when I stumbled upon “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer story” on Netflix’s for-you page.
True Crime drama being my favourite genre of television, made me very excited to watch this show without even learning anything about it. This limited series for Netflix, rated 8.3/10, is the story of the Milwaukee cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer. The directors, Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennon did a great job of highlighting different angles of the life of Jeffrey Dahmer in the show and making it enticing.
The blood-curdling story of Jeffrey Dahmer is told over 10 episodes. Through the show, attempts are made at shedding light on the racial and homophobic conditions in the society along with police incompetence that allowed him to commit these crimes for so many years, instead of the sole focus being Dahmer.
The start of the show itself piques the interest of the viewer. It starts with us seeing visuals of his home and how he lures naïve men into his house. His home is a small apartment in a black community with only basic furniture and a god-awful smell. He poses as a photographer and calls young men whom “he finds beautiful” home to take pictures of them, then eats them.
The show becomes irresistible when Jeffrey Dahmer is arrested in the very first episode. It shows the viewer every minor mistake Dahmer made while preying on his last victim, Tracy Edwards, which led to his arrest. Tracy escapes despite many attempts made by Dahmer to stop him and brings the police. We are then shown visuals of him storing human body parts in a 57-gallon acid tank, his fridge, dresser, and the living room, showing us the extent of his crimes.
The story then unfolds with Dahmer saying he would not lie to the detectives who are investigating his case. He talks about his life in extensive detail, his drug addict and suicidal mom, his emotionally absent dad, their troubled marriage, his lonely childhood, his alcohol addiction, his interest in anatomy and surgery that started at a very young age, his time in the army, and all other factors that may have led to him being the way he is.
Over the 10 episodes, we are taken over various timelines painting us a very vivid picture of his life. The show goes back and forth between different parts of his life making it very engaging. Various details given about his social life and parents are a red flag. Even though all the important times of his life are spread evenly along the show, there are parts of it that are painfully slow and boring. Each detail is carefully spoon-fed to us which may be indulging in a True Crime series, but that isn’t the case here.
By focusing on the external factors that led to these incidents, a soft spot has been created for Dahmer in the eyes of the viewer. We see him as a boy who simply does not fit in. The show has done a great job of humanizing the criminal. This has caused a problem for some people but I think the show has done a great job of making us believe in the killer. It makes the viewer think that it is the fault of the circumstances for Dahmer being the way he is, instead of it being his fault. Every detail given by him strikes a wrong chord with us at a single glance.
However, the show does not take a complete gruesome or gore turn but has a few scenes that are very difficult to watch. Some of those are when he is shown to be stroking a dead pig’s heart; caressing, and kissing one of his dead victim’s faces; drinking from bags of blood he stole from the blood bank he worked at.
The actors and the VFX editors along with the directors played a huge part in making this show a success. Evan Peters who played the role of Jeffrey Dahmer did a beautiful job as the standoffish boy with unexpected violent outbursts. It is not hard to believe that he is the real Dahmer. All the other actors in the show play an equally good part in supporting Evan which makes the show so good to watch. The VFX editors also make the experience remarkable by making every scene in the show look real.
Some people have taken an issue with these scenes saying that it is causing people to re-live the trauma they have gone through. It is being said that the grisly depiction of events in the show is making things worse for the family of the victims and the cops involved. However, such scenes are unavoidable in a True Crime series, majorly because of the reality.
The incompetence of the police along with these external factors is highlighted in various instances throughout the 10 episodes. This could be one of the reasons why the show gained traction owing to the recent incidents with the police, especially in the United States. This angle explored by Ryan and Ian might have been the major factor for the success of the show. Dahmer says “I am not insane. It just got really easy is the problem. That is why it kept happening” proving this. One such incident is depicted by showing the police escort a 14-year-old boy back to Dahmer’s house believing him that the boy is his 19-year-old boyfriend rather than a black woman who said he looks like an assaulted child.
Despite a few complaints, when Dahmer was released as a limited miniseries on the 21st of September it climbed to the top of the Must Watch list on Netflix quickly.
Now comes the major question, is this show worth watching? I think that rather than as a 10-episode binge this story would be more compelling as a 2-hour movie with more shock factor and quicker plot changes. However, if you are a true crime enthusiast, this show is a must-watch. You will witness shockingly good acting, different angles in Dahmer’s life, a great screenplay, and a plot that kept me hooked without being confusing in the least bit.
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