Dahmer: Harmful and Triggering Entertainment

by Student Submission

Ever since Netflix released the hit show Dahmer, which follows the life and crimes of serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer, there has been equal amounts of support and criticism online by viewers.

This has led people to ask the question, should we be sensationalizing the crimes of these monsters?

Pamela Jay, a law student and advocate for victims, started a TikTok account in early 2019 titled themissPamelaJ where she talks about true crime cases.

It wasn’t long before some “fans” of the killers she was discussing entered her comment section.

“Putting actors such as Evan Peters and Ross Lynch, who are known for being attractive, and having them portray a monster such as Dahmer is causing a lot of individuals to lose sight of the fact that these people aren’t characters in a movie but real people,” said Jay.

Over the past two years, Netflix has began releasing more and more movies and shows based off of serial killers as well as documentaries such as the ‘Conversations with a Killer.’

“We need to stick to documentaries. Remove the actors, use real courtroom footage, reach out to survivors, reach out to the families, and give them a chance to speak out. Give them a chance to tell the story of how their lives changed forever because of a monster,” said Jay.

Many people find it disgusting that Netflix keeps releasing shows like these because it feels like the company is profiting off of victims’ stories for entertainment.

“If you have to twist the story about what actually happened to the victims, then you aren’t worried about telling their stories; you’re worried about how much money you will make,” said Jay.

Blythe Provost, a mental health therapist with Wellness Services at Lethbridge College, believes that shows such as Dahmer most likely negatively impact the families of the victims.

“It’s a situation that you want to get through, you want to get past it and having it be re-brought up can totally be triggering,” said Provost.

After the release of Dahmer, many family members of his victims came forward and said they were not consulted about the show being made.

Eric Perry, cousin to Errol Lindsey who was murdered by Dahmer in 1991, has taken to Twitter to share his thoughts on the show after a clip comparing a scene from the show and the real courtroom scene of Rita Isbell went viral.

Perry tweeted the clip with a response saying, “recreating my cousin having an emotional breakdown in court in the face of a man who tortured and murdered her brother is wild.”

This tweet blew up with many people agreeing with him and empathizing with his story in the comments.

“When you are being triggered, {the trauma} is just resurfacing so all of the work that you did kind of goes away and you have to work through it again,” said Provost.

Since then, people have been tearing the show apart over social media and calling out Netflix for not caring about the mental health of those affected by Dahmer’s crimes.

The problem with shows such as Dahmer is that no matter how much they try to tell the stories of the victims, it’s always overshadowed by how much they focus on the person who took their lives.

In order for people to understand these shows are not fiction, you have to create a strong victim-based storyline so the viewer can understand just how much the families suffered.

“People don’t necessarily understand that these are real people and they have been affected by it,” said Provost.

With people not knowing who these monsters really were and who their victims were, they have a hard time making a connection with the stories.

After watching the show, an alarming amount of people took to TikTok and expressed their sympathy towards Jeffrey Dahmer, not realizing that the family members of his victims have the possibility of seeing those videos.

“Treating the victims, survivors, and their friends and family with the respect that they deserve is human decency and kindness and might help them feel a little less alone while they seek out justice or while they continue the rest of their lives trying to heal. Kindness and respect are everything,” said Jay.

Many viewers of the show, who were familiar with the case, even went as far as to get Netflix to remove the LGBTQ tag from the show as they thought it was disgusting it was even added in the first place.

Most subscribers believe that Netflix adding the LGBTQ tag was unnecessary and an example of how tone-deaf the company truly is.

The company previously applied this tag to shows that celebrated pride or had strong LGBTQ character representation and fans felt that this was very inappropriate.

Even though Dahmer himself was gay, people felt that this was an attempt by Netflix to get more views on the show, specifically from people who may not know who he was.

At the end of the day, shows and movies like Dahmer can be very harmful and triggering for victims families and can also lead to people sympathizing with the killers.

The entertainment industry has proven that you can only tell the same story so many times before it becomes boring.

Story by Kyleigh Tytula

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