OPINION: Netflix needs to cancel Dahmer
Maybe let’s stop romanticizing serial killers.
Content warning: this articles makes references to mutilation, murder, and necromancy. Reader discretion is advised.
Last week, Evan Peters won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Jeffrey Dahmer, a serial killer who tortured 17 victims in Milwaukee from the 1970s to 1990s; many of these victims were Black or other men of color. Yet, while Peters was awarded for his role in retelling their lived trauma, the victims’ families have spoken out against their trauma being monetized.
Shirley Hughes, a mother to one of Dahmer’s victims, told TMZ, “There’s a lot of sick people around the world, and people winning acting roles from playing killers keeps the obsession going and this makes sick people thrive on the fame.”
Hughes was not the only family member of a Dahmer victim to disagree with the series. For Insider, Rita Isbell wrote an essay explaining her point of view on Dahmer.
When I saw some of the show, it bothered me, especially when I saw myself — when I saw my name come across the screen and this lady saying verbatim exactly what I said.
If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve thought it was me. Her hair was like mine, she had on the same clothes. That’s why it felt like reliving it all over again. It brought back all the emotions I was feeling back then.Rita Isbell, Insider
Sadly, the families’ discontent seemed overshadowed, as the miniseries garnered 1 Billion viewing hours and will have two more seasons, according to a Netflix article.
This lack of care for the victims or their families is a narrative “me too.” victims know all too well.
According to The Guardian, “Prosecutors determined that Dahmer mainly lured his victims to his apartment under the guise of sexual interest, drugged them, strangled them or otherwise killed them, and sometimes performed sex acts with their corpses before dismembering them.”
Given this information, Dahmer’s crimes should be studied from a “me too.” lens. In 2017, “me too.” became a global phenomenon when white feminists co-opted the term to describe sexual abuse in Hollywood. Yet, before it was a rallying cry for Hollywood’s open secrets, it was a movement started in Alabama by Tarana Burke.
Burke is an activist who started “me too.” in 2006 to bring attention to sexual abuse, especially for Black people. In a 2019 HBCU tour, which we covered, Burke spoke on the disconnect some men feel from the movement when she said, the first place for men in the movement is as survivors.
For Black people victimized by sexual violence, race is an added characteristic that prompts disbelief, doubt, and carelessness. See the reactions to “Dahmer,” this is all I can think about. As advocates continue to fight toward healing, conversations are a first step, but corrective action is the next one.
Really, Netflix should cancel the Dahmer series instead of running it for at least two more seasons. It is harmful, reductive, and traumatizing to not only survivors but people who possess a modicum of decency. If the families cries aren’t enough to do it, I don’t know what will be.