Show: "Dahmer -- Monster: The Jeffery Dahmer Story"
Release Date: Sept. 21, 2022
Genre: Crime, Drama
I grew up visiting places within a mile of where Jeffery Dahmer used to live, and I didn’t even know it.
I’m now a USC student miles away from my home in Milwaukee. But as I watch the new show “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” I can't watch it without thinking of how I don't remember any evidence of this atrocity growing up, and it almost seems like this is what people want. I was alarmed and uneasy relating my home to the atrocities on the screen.
Netflix released this show on Sept. 21 starring notable actors such as Evan Peters as Dahmer and Molly Ringwald as Dahmer's stepmother, Shari Dahmer. This 10-part series has since caused backlash and controversy, as viewers were left unsettled with the quality of detail.
This show is understandably controversial, with Netflix facing criticism for dramatizing the murders and being indifferent to the victims’ families. Some have questioned how necessary another production of Dahmer’s life was needed — and in such gory detail.
The series focuses on Dahmer’s life as a killer, the first episode showing in graphic detail his last attempt at murder, before getting stopped by police. It briefly shows the life of Dahmer from a child and goes into his final days in prison before getting killed.
Peters brings an exceptional performance in his portrayal of the serial killer. It’s clear that the creators, Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan, wanted to angle the story in the eyes of Dahmer’s apartment neighbor, Glenda Cleveland played by Niecy Nash, to highlight issues within the police force after they largely neglected her suspicions about what was going on next door.
In the second episode, two police officers handed back Dahmer his clearly drugged 14-year-old Laotian victim telling him, "I don't know what you (gay men) do. Just take care of him, okay?"
The episode ends with the real conversation from Cleveland, who first called the police officers when she saw the drugged boy outside the apartments, to Officer Balcerzak, one of the officers who came to check out the scene. Balcerzak assures her they've taken care of the situation, but clearly his ignorant perceptions of homosexuality brought Konerak Sinthasomphone, the victim, back into the hands of his killer.
But no matter how good the acting or how haunting the crime it portrays, saying this show was hard to watch would be a massive understatement.
I have lived on the outskirts of Milwaukee my whole life, and I had never even known how close Dahmer was to the sites in the city I visit the most.
In the ninth episode of the series, The Oxford Apartments where Dahmer lived are demolished. Today, there sits a vacant lot on 924 N. 25th St. I’ve probably passed this lot multiple times without even giving it a glance. I was there occasionally and never questioned its bare and ordinary appearance.
The last scene of the show shows Cleveland having a meeting with the city trying to persuade them to build a memorial park on the vacant lot for the victims. It was argued that the people of Milwaukee did not want a project to happen so everybody could move on from the nightmare.
People of Milwaukee may want to forget that a serial killer roamed their hometown, but that doesn't mean the victims and what they represented should be forgotten too.
It closes on the note that Cleveland won’t stop fighting for a park to honor the victims. She argues that while it may be easy for ordinary citizens to move on, the families will never forget.
The memorial has not been built.
Controversy aside, the show does succeed in one place. The last episode and scene highlight how Milwaukee citizens wanted to forget he ever existed. After I researched the closeness of his apartment to other sites, I realized a person touring Marquette University wouldn’t know that on the way they passed the street of Jeffery Dahmer’s former residence. Somebody going to watch the Milwaukee Bucks play wouldn't know they were sitting in the location of his former factory job.
My scariest takeaway from researching the proximities of Dahmer's apartment after watching the show is not that a scary monster lived near my hometown, but he was so close to everything I am familiar with. And, even worse, I was oblivious for so long.
The show makes me hope that by destroying the evidence of his existence, the town also didn’t destroy peoples’ awareness of the deep, systematic issues of police ignorance that were finally brought to the surface.
Ultimately, it made me feel guilty. It opened my eyes to a history that, in reality, was not long ago. While the show succeeds at times, I would caution anyone in watching it. The show made me fearful and uncomfortable with how grotesque it was and concerned his evil life is again being exploited for entertainment.