Navigating the Controversial Waters of True Crime Television
You may have heard about Netflix’s new rollercoaster ride into the true crime genre, a show that delves into the life and crimes of Jeffrey Dahmer, one of America’s most notorious serial killers. But does the show, starring Evan Peters as Dahmer, hit the mark or miss the point?
The Ambitious Attempt to Spotlight Victims
“Though the controversial Netflix show aimed to shine a light on Dahmer’s victims, it has been criticized by viewers and relatives of Dahmer’s victims for falling prey to numerous true crime tropes.”
The series had lofty ambitions of focusing on Dahmer’s victims, most of whom were queer men of color. However, it seems to have stumbled into the same pitfalls that many a true crime show has fallen into before: it’s been accused of sensationalizing trauma and failing to truly honor the victims.
Time-Jumping Storytelling: A Muddled Approach?
The series takes an interesting but flawed narrative approach, zigzagging through Dahmer’s tumultuous childhood, his heinous murders, and his grim demise in prison. While this might make for compelling storytelling, it also raises the question: what details are left out? And more importantly, is the depiction fair to those who suffered at Dahmer’s hands?
“The series jumps between the killer’s unhappy childhood, his murders and his eventual arrest and murder in prison.”
The Grisly End: How Dahmer Met His Fate
If you were hoping the series would offer new insights into the death of Jeffrey Dahmer, you might be left wanting. The story about Dahmer’s end is a well-known one. On November 28, 1994, he was beaten to death in prison by Christopher Scarver. Scarver, another inmate, used a 20-inch iron bar to inflict fatal injuries on Dahmer and another convicted killer, Jesse Anderson.
“Dahmer had sustained severe injuries to his head and face and had also been repeatedly hit against the wall by Scarver.”
The Man Who Took Down Dahmer: Who is Christopher Scarver?
Christopher Scarver is a fascinating figure in his own right. Initially sentenced to life for the murder of Steve Lohman, he gained further notoriety for killing Dahmer and Anderson in prison. Scarver had been on anti-psychotic medications and claimed that “God told [him] to do it.”
“Scarver was deemed competent enough to stand trial and was sentenced to two further life sentences for killing Dahmer and Anderson.”
He is currently serving his time in the Centennial Correctional Facility in Colorado, after an unsuccessful attempt to sue Wisconsin officials for violating his constitutional rights.
A Formulaic Path: Netflix’s Recurring True Crime Problem
The show appears to be another in a line of Netflix series that treat real-life tragedies like binge-worthy content. Critics and viewers argue that the series does more harm than good, echoing a recurring issue with Netflix’s approach to true crime.
“It often feels like these films are being treated like just content rather than a film.”
The Unanswered Questions and the Ethical Debate
The series leaves many questions unanswered, not least of all about its own ethics. While it may be intriguing to some, others question whether Netflix is doing justice to the victims and their families or simply capitalizing on public fascination with true crime.
The Dahmer story on Netflix brings to light the dilemma of how we consume real-life horror stories, and it makes us question whether or not we should.