Controversies Surrounding True Crime Obsession

Warning: Strong topics are included in the following.
“Monster: The Jeffery Dahmer Story” released by Netflix on Sept. 23,
2022, started many controversies that question the respectability of true crime adaptations.

Evan Peters stars as Dahmer in the Netflix series, which primarily focuses on Dahmer committing his murders. This includes the death of 17 young boys and men in Milwaukee, WI, during the late 1970s into the early 1990s.

The series has been in the Top 10 most watched on Netflix for two weeks in a row, though it has received mixed reviews from critics. Before the series, there was another adaptation of Dahmer that focused on his life during high school. “My Friend Dahmer,” starring Ross Lynch, was not violent and focused more on his personality and childhood leading up to Dahmer’s murders.

Controversies sparked when the families of the victims began exposing Netflix for their over-dramatizing of certain parts of the story.

According to Time, “Some family members of the victims of Dahmer have also spoken out against the series saying it retraumatized them.”

Rita Isbell spoke out about the series and how her character was portrayed. Isbell is Errol Lindsey’s sister; Lindsey was one of Dahmer’s victims. Isbell said she watched some of the series before needing to stop because she was “bothered.”

Isbell mentioned that she was never asked by Netflix if it was okay to make the series. She added that Netflix was only looking for a way to make more money.

Isbell is famous for her victim impact statement at Dahmer’s sentencing after pleading guilty to 15 of the 17 murders. Isbell can be seen in her original statement talking to Dahmer and becoming emotional before rushing towards Dahmer in the courtroom and later being restrained by officers.

In the 2022 series, Isbell’s character adaptation raises her voice and is yelling at Dahmer and making a bigger scene in the courtroom. Isbell claimed they over-dramatized her character.

Another controversy arose when Netflix released the series and tagged the show with “LGBTQ” amongst “True Crime” and other tags. Viewers did not like this because although Dahmer identified as a homosexual and most of his victims identified the same way, labeling the violent murders as an “LGBTQ” show was in poor taste.

Netflix later removed the tag in response to the backlash online.

The most disturbing controversy of the Netflix series is the romanticization and desensitization of Dahmer and his crimes. On multiple social media platforms, people have called Dahmer “hot” and have said they “feel bad for him,” in response to the series.

Some viewers have also posted online about being “unfazed” when watching the series and responding on how they did not understand why some people thought it was disturbing.

As mentioned in a Newsweek article by Shira Li Bartov, “Critics of true crime argue that as the genre has grown, so has the comfort of audiences with scenes of horrific violence that killed real people, whose families are still alive.”

The true crime genre has grown in the past few years, which leaves people craving for more content. This obsession has shed more light on serial killers and murderers than on the victims and their families.

It is important to identify the victims in these true crime documentaries, movies and shows as real people who had lives before they were horrifically ended by the hands of another person.

The true crime genre is not for sympathizing or making excuses for murderers, but for exposing the flaws in the justice system and the evil that is in the world.