Netflix’s Dahmer: story of a monster


Ella Mancuso, Feature Editor

October is all about terror: Halloween, horror movies, and…Jeffery Dahmer? On September 21, Netflix released Dahmer- Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, and when it came up on my Netflix recommended, I pressed play on the series without much thought. After a few minutes, I couldn’t take my eyes off my television. Jeffery Dahmer was a name I was aware of, but only as a murderer, a term that downplays his actions immensely after viewing Dahmer–Monster: A Jeffrey Dahmer Story.

Dahmer–Monster jumps between time periods throughout the series, starting in 1991 with Episode 1: “Bad Meat”. Viewers are introduced to Glenda Cleveland, Dahmer’s neighbor in his Milwaukee apartment complex. Glenda shows her concern from the start, when she hears disturbing noises like screaming and drills whirring through her circulation vents, and smells rotten meat. In Episode 2, “Please Don’t Go”, Glenda’s concerns are proved valid when she finds a 14-year-old boy escaping Dahmer’s apartment, and calls the police. Dahmer is able to convince police the boy is his adult-boyfriend, and Glenda is dismissed. The boy is then killed by Dahmer shortly after the police encounter. 

Throughout the series, Glenda is shown relentlessly calling police, and being dismissed. It is never specifically stated that this is a race issue, but it is clear it is; race is a prominent topic of the series, as Dahmer’s victims are primarily black, which is inferred due to the fact that the Milwaukee police ignored black victims and upstanders’ claims against Dahmer, and he took advantage of their ignorance. I liked the addition of this social issue in the series because it highlights the racism clearly present in the police system in the 1980’s and 90’s, and leads to an explanation of why Dahmer’s actions continued for such a long time period.

 At this point in the series, I was truly disturbed. It felt as if I was experiencing the events first-hand, not watching them through a T.V. screen. Evan Peters, who plays Jeffery Dahmer, proves his talent with his disturbingly accurate mannerisms. I was impressed with how similar he looked, acted, and talked like Jeffrey Dahmer– even his Wisconsin accent was perfectly executed. Each scene provides a deeper look into Dahmer’s psyche, and Peters represents that well. The series overall portrayed events accurately; some scenes may have seemed dramatized, but they weren’t; they were simply reenacting Dahmer’s real-life actions. 

As more black, gay men go missing in later episodes, many concerned parents file missing persons reports for their sons. The episode then follows up on those concerns by showing Dahmer’s arrest at his apartment after a victim escapes and runs to the police for help. I must admit, the series starts and leaves off at some confusing parts. At some points, I was confused what year it was, how old Dahmer was supposed to be, and what stage of his life the series was depicting. Some events were shown or vaguely mentioned, but then never followed up on, and I had a hard time following the overall storyline.

After Dahmer’s arrest, Lionel Dahmer is depicted as a mourning and concerned father. He works with lawyers to limit his son’s sentence, but fails, and Jeffrey rightfully earns 15 life sentences. Glenda Cleveland appears again and works hard to assist victims’ families and works against the Milwaukee police after they denied her constant concerns of Dahmer. Niecy Nash, who plays Glenda Cleveland, does an amazing job showing Glenda’s determination to get justice for the victim’s families. Her acting is truly emotional, and speaks to viewers about how frustrating Glenda’s attempts to get police involved were. Nash really brings her character to life, and watching her acting was not only intriguing, but enjoyable. Glenda was a real person involved, however some details of her character contrasts with the real-life Glenda, which I thought was a bad decision. I feel like all events in the series should’ve been depicted the way they happened in real life, for the purpose of keeping the story raw and real, solely out of respect to the victims.

Episode 10, “God of Forgiveness, God of Vengeance” shows Dahmer’s last few months in prison after his conviction. Dahmer is killed in prison after an inmate becomes aware of his actions. I feel as if the series should’ve ended here or shortly after, to depict that Dahmer has no remaining role in society and shouldn’t be honored or given a chance for memoriam in any way. The series actually ends with his family deciding what to do with his body, whether he should be buried or not, and his father even mentions the memorial service he held for Dahmer. I understand his father’s regrets and his emotion over the death of his son, but I felt like that has no place in the series, and may be difficult for victims and their families to see; it also made Dahmer’s actions seem rather justified by his father’s intense emotion and grief that was portrayed. But other than this minor flaw of the show, I never felt Dahmer was portrayed as anything other than a gruesome serial killer.

In all, the series was crafted with lots of attention to detail and information. The creator of the series, Ryan Murphy, truly had a vision and executed it well. In my opinion, Evan Peters gives the best adaptation of Jeffrey Dahmer, and depicts his disturbing personality almost too well. Murphy did a good job keeping true to the storyline and events, while also being respectful of the victims and their families. At the end of the series, all the victims are honored and shown, which was an important addition to the show. It reminded viewers that this was real, and a truly heartbreaking part of American history. I never felt the series romanticized Dahmer or his actions, which was one of my concerns at the beginning of viewing.  

Dahmer–Monster: A Jeffrey Dahmer Story has consistently been rated in Netflix’s top ten in October, and rightfully has earned that spot. Rather than highlighting the serial killer, the show highlights the victims personal stories and explains Dahmer’s life without justifying his actions. This series is definitely more suitable for a mature audience, and I advise you to watch at your own risk, as graphic scenes are depicted.