Dahmer: Examining the Romanticization of Murderers

Dahmer: Examining the Romanticization of Murderers

Ella Fouke

With the recent popularity of the Netflix show “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” there have been increasingly concerning things surrounding the romanticization of murderers/serial killers and its subsequent consequences. 

Historically speaking the romanticization of murderers/serial killers has always been a significant problem, in fact, proof of this is the frequent number of serial killers that got married while in jail awaiting life or even the death penalty. For instance, Ted Bundy got married to Carole Ann while he was on trial for the terrorization and murder of about 30 women. Similarly, Tex Watson, a friend of Charles Manson, married Kristin Joan Svege while serving a life sentence for seven counts of first-degree murder. Though the love towards killers is not uncommon, because of the rise of trends and short/quick-paced videos when it comes to social media (like TikTok, Youtube Shorts, and Instagram Reels) many different dances, themes, and topics are popular ranging from only a day or two to a few months (and possibly even longer depending on the relevance of the topic, like Covid-19) it has become more frequent. One of these “trends” was the Netflix limited series “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story”. 

This new and extremely popular Netflix show has been consumed for around 205.33 million hours of viewing time worldwide, and has been in the Top 10 of Netflix’s “Global Top 10”, for 6 whole weeks. This is concerning because of the romanticization of Dahmer’s character in this Netflix hit series. Most notably on the social media platform, TikTok, there were 1000s of videos; thirst traps, edits, and other videos of Dahmer drawing attention to his physical looks or attractiveness some of which garnered over a million likes. Though there was much criticism of the people creating these videos, and as a result many videos ended up being deleted, the fact that any person thought it was okay to post should be concerning enough. Many comments harped on his cannibalism and his horrific murders as simply something to be overlooked (by the commenter) because of his so called “attractiveness.”

Though many people, upon facing criticism retracted their statements (calling him “hot” for example), instead said that the actor, Evan Peters, was the person who they were considering as attractive (who was playing/acting in the role of Damer), could still be harmful. Regardless of whether someone is to agree or disagree with this rationale, the fact that videos garnered so much attention and likes is nevertheless disturbing and distracts from the problems with the show and its production. The director(s) intended this series to “be based upon a true story” and depicted graphic killings of Damer that were acted out, which is quite concerning and unusual, because it is not portraying a typical documentary style show where actual professionals and victim’s families would have input on Dahmer’s life and criminal acts (which is typical of most shows depicting killers as to not glorify them). 

Seeing this graphic content is extremely harmful, because it has influenced many individuals to promote/do harmful things centering on Dahmer rather than being sensitive to the victims and their families. For instance some parents decided to dress up their children as Dahmer for Halloween, with fake blood on the shirts, carrying a Dahmer-inspired camera, his 80s retro glasses, etc; which is directly inspired by his depiction in the Netflix show. Not only is this disgusting, portraying an actual person who openly admitted, and described in graphic detail how he murdered his victims and consumed their bodies, but it is a horrific reminder to the communities and victims’ families most affected by Dahmer’s crimes.  It is understandable to be intrigued in murders, and the psychological reason why serial killers commit the heinous, disgusting crimes they do, but the over-focusing on Dahmer himself is absolutely disgusting. It leaves no room for the victims’ families’ input in putting their murdered family member in a show where the audience glorifies the actor, or rather the character of Dahmer, as well as no financial compensation. A cousin of one Dahmer’s victim even states publicly that the series “retraumatized” his family.

It is clear that the romanticization and depiction of Dahmer in the limited Netflix series “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” has harmful consequences– it could mean the rise of insensitive media, if other directors and writers of movies and series continue to misrepresent serial killers, and depict them in a fantastical and generally positive way, with a lack of psychological experts and victim’s families input– devastating things could occur.