Jeffrey Dahmer Netflix doc reignites trauma for victims' families
Left: Rita Isbell delivering a victim impact statement at Jeffrey Dahmer's sentencing in 1992. Right: Rita Isbell in a more recent photo. Rita Isbell
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Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story started streaming on Netflix in late September and it’s been one of the hottest topics on social media since.

I got hip to the latest binge when I was scrolling through Facebook and came across a status from one of my friends who’s a Black, gay man. He said, “Dahmer. I’m not watching it. Y’all enjoy.” 

Because I didn’t know the back story, I watched it over the weekend and immediately learned why he and others are so against the series. It’s gory, traumatizing, triggering and really, just not what we need.

Jeffrey Dahmer was a deranged serial killer and cannibal whose reign of terror began in the late 1970s. Over the course of 13 years, he murdered 17 mostly gay boys and men of color until his capture in 1991 when he attempted to murder his 18th victim.


Jeffrey Dahmer story back on the big screen

While the series is well-written, directed and acted, it brought to light persistent injustices and traumas that the Black community still face today. Glaringly obvious is a lack of urgency in protecting Black communities–particularly when it comes to protecting it from white people. 

And secondly, it perpetuates this insistent trend of trauma porn and sensationalizing murder and criminal activities for entertainment and profit.

Co-creators Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan did a good job in offering a different and more raw portrayal of how the city of Milwaukee – specifically the police department – was grossly negligent in its handling and possible prevention of the murders. However, that effort was kind of nullified in the attempt to humanize Dahmer.

#DahmerNetflix is out, let’s not romanticize Jeffrey Dahmer just because he is played by Evan Peters.
Remember the victims.
A tread about each victim and who they were.

— hot girl jo (@sicssorluv) September 21, 2022

One of the main characters in the limited biographical crime drama is Glenda Cleveland, (played by Niecey Nash) who is Jeffrey Dahmer’s next-door neighbor in the predominantly Black, low-income community. It’s worth noting that in real life, Cleveland didn’t actually live next door to Dahmer (played by Evan Peters). She actually lived in the building next to the Oxford apartments but for the purposes of honing in on the police bias, the writers amalgamated her and another neighbor into one character.


In the film, Glenda repeatedly and desperately calls the Milwaukee police department to report strange occurrences in Dahmer’s apartment–physical struggles between people, screams, intolerable smells of what Dahmer claims is expired food but is actually rotting flesh. For the most part, her alerts are ignored. 

Shout out to Glynda Cleveland, the Black woman who called the police on Jeffery Dahmer many times and they never did anything because of the race and class of the neighborhood.

— Dr. Amos Wilson’s Protégé ??? (@ZakiyaChinyere) September 26, 2022

One of the most egregious incidents occurred when Dahmer was victimizing 14-year-old Konerak Sinthasomphone. Konerak managed to escape when Dahmer went to the liquor store and was found naked, drugged and incoherent outside the Oxford apartments. When the police arrived on the scene, Glenda pleaded with them to investigate but Dahmer convinced them that Sinthasomphone was his overly-intoxicated boyfriend who was upset because they’d had a disagreement. The police allowed Dahmer to take Sinthasomphone back into his apartment where he was ultimately murdered.

Ronald Flowers was also another potential victim of Dahmer’s.

In the series, Flowers was drugged by Dahmer at his grandmother’s house after accepting help with his broken down car. Dahmer’s grandmother, under suspicion of her grandson’s activities, sat with Flowers in the living room until he was somewhat coherent. She then orders Dahmer to escort Flowers to public transit so he can get home.

Flowers eventually ends up in a hospital where he finds out he was drugged. When he goes to the police department to file a complaint and leads the officer to Dahmer’s house, the officer dismisses his claims asserting it was his word against Jeffrey’s. While Flowers was able to escape with his life, Dahmer’s murder spree continued three years after that incident.


Victims’ families outraged by film

Despite depicting the Dahmer murders from a lens of injustice, families of the victims and others are bothered by the series

Rita Isbell, the sister of Errol Lindsey, one of Jeffrey Dahmer’s victims, shared her thoughts with Insider. She said neither her or her family was contacted by Netflix in the making of the series and watching the scene of her confronting Dahmer in the courtroom was re-traumatizing.

In a Tweet, another member of the Isbell family says, “I’m not telling anyone what to watch, I know true crime media is huge rn, but if you’re actually curious about the victims, my family (the Isbell’s) are pissed about this show. It’s retraumatizing over and over again, and for what? How many movies/shows/documentaries do we need?”

Another Twitter user said, “wait?? why Netflix remade a documentary over Jeffrey Dahmer as if theres not already 3 previous documentaries over it? Capitalism is sick and this really disturbing to the victims.”

There are already several movies and documentaries about the Milwaukee Cannibal. Did we need another? Regardless of the attempt to shine a light on police bias against the Black and LGBTQ+ communities (which we’re all aware of) and offer more insight into why Jeffrey Dahmer murder and dismembered 17 innocent men and boys, the families of the victims could’ve done without reliving the trauma of losing their loved ones. And the world would be better off without another piece of disturbing “entertainment” romanticizing a serial killer.

Tanesha Peeples is driven by one question in her work--"If not me then who?" As a strategist and injustice interrupter, Tanesha merges the worlds of communications and grassroots activism to push for radical...

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