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Jeffrey Dahmer Netflix Controversy: How Dahmer Became Netflix’s Most Controversial Show in Years?

The Jeffrey Dahmer Story is the third account of the serial killer’s life to be published in the previous two decades, and the second to appear in the last five years. 20 years after Jeremy Renner’s portrayal of Jeffrey Dahmer in My Friend Dahmer, Ross Lynch has taken up the role. In Monster, Dahmer’s narrative is repeated yet again in the guise of a limited series on Netflix developed by Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan, with Evan Peters as its star.

The show chronicles Dahmer’s life from his initial obsession with the 17 young men he killed to his eventual capture and trial. The limited series debuts at a time when interest in depictions of crime, from documentaries about actual cases to parodies like Only Murders in the Building, is at an all-time high.

Since its launch on September 23rd, Monster has become one of the streaming service’s most-watched shows, and criticism of the show has grown at the same rapid pace. Critics have questioned the need to rehash the subject of a serial killer who targeted young males who were predominantly Black and brown.

The extent to which systemic racism enabled Dahmer to keep killing men has been a central topic of contention. Several relatives of Dahmer’s victims have spoken out against the show, claiming it has retraumatized them. Netflix’s labeling of the show as “LGBTQ material” drew additional criticism (as drama over this choice arose on TikTok, Netflix quickly removed the label).

While online outrage is nothing new, the premiere of Murphy’s new limited series has made it one of the most divisive shows of recent years. Here’s the lowdown on how well the show did in the ratings.

How Monster Has Been Received

jeffrey dahmer netflix controversy

Reviews for the show were generally negative. In contrast to Vulture and The Hollywood Reporter, which gave it positive reviews, Variety and Vanity Fair were more critical. The current Metacritic score for the series is 45 out of 100. Regardless of the negative reviews, the show was an instant hit, topping Netflix’s Weekly Top 10 list with 196.2 million hours seen in its first week (making it the most viewed title overall). The streaming service ranked it among the top 10 in 92 different countries.

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How the Families of The Victims Have Responded

The show received backlash almost immediately after its debut. Errol Lindsey’s sister and a victim of Dahmer’s, Rita Isbell, is a notable critic. When the killer was sentenced in 1992, Isbell also spoke as a victim impact witnesses. In an essay she penned for Insider, she revealed that she had seen one episode or two and found it “bothersome.” DaShawn Barnes, as Isbell, reenacted her statement for the show’s dramatic effect.

She wrote, “I was never approached about the show. Netflix should have sought our input before moving forward, in my opinion. None of them bothered to ask me any questions. Simply, they took action. However, I’m not in it for the money, as Isbell pointed out: “This show is about Netflix attempting to get paid.”

Her cousin, Eric Perry, took to Twitter to voice his displeasure with the show, writing, “I’m not telling anyone what to watch, I know true crime media is huge rn, but if you’re truly curious about the victims, my family (the Isbell’s) are upset about this show.” Further, “It’s retraumatizing over and over again, and for what? The question is, “How many films/television programs/documentaries do we require?”

My family, the Isbells, are really upset about this show, and I’m not here to tell you what to watch; I know true crime television is very popular right now. It’s repetitively traumatic, and to what end? We need how many hours of movies, TV, and documentaries? https://t.co/CRQjXWAvjx

Peters stated in a promotional video for Monster that the show makes an effort to bring attention to the victims of Dahmer. As Peters put it, “The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” is about more than simply Dahmer and his background: it’s about the fallout, about how society and our system failed to stop him countless times due to racism and homophobia. The story is tragic, but that’s all it is.

There will always be a discussion about when and how to share sad stories. The words of Isbell, though, serve as a reminder that these stories are about more than just television; they have real-world consequences. She remarked, “It made me feel everything I did back then.”

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Criticism Over Netflix’s LGBTQ Representation Category

The ways in which Netflix categorized the show on its page also generated some controversy. The genres “Horror,” “Ominous,” “Dark,” “Vintage Crime,” “Psychological,” and “LGBTQ” were all applied to Monster.

Many Netflix viewers were taken aback when they discovered a show that focuses on the horrible deaths of queer men was being promoted as an “LGBTQ” show, as opposed to the more cheerful shows like Heartstopper, Sex Education, and AJ and the Queen that are typically put under the “LGBTQ” title.

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In a now-viral TikTok video, one user demands to know, “Why the f-CK would Netflix tag the Jeffrey Dahmer documentary, LGBTQ?” This is not the kind of portrayal we’re after, even if it is technically accurate.

To stay in my lane, please let me know, but does anybody else find it really sick that @netflix lists Dahmer under #LGBTQ when the True Crime category would have worked? tweeted author Frances Danger. And someone else tweeted, “Hey hi @netflix When I first opened the app, one of the first tags was “LGBTQ,” and I begged the developers to remove Dahmer’s tag.

Netflix did not issue a statement when the tag was deleted. The precise moment the streamer untagged is unknown.

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