Opinion Piece: “Monster – The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” Facing Controversy


“The episode with me is the only part I saw. I didn’t watch the whole show. I don’t need to watch it. I lived it. I know exactly what happens.” 

Everyone has heard the hype about another series on Jeffrey Dahmer: Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. It broke records for most-watched Week 1 for a new series with 196.2 MILLION hours watched in its 5 days after going live (‘Dahmer’ Just Had Netflix’s Biggest Series Debut on Record | IndieWire).

I just finished episode 4. The–in my opinion–unsettling biopic follows Dahmer throughout different stages of his life, how he chose victims, what he did to them, and how the law system failed to recognize warning signs that he was a serial killer and cannibal. 

The show has sparked a bit of controversy. Netflix has heavily profited off of the biopic. There is a scene that includes a trial. Netflix used the actual peoples’ names and direct dialogue from the victim’s family’s testimony. You would think that they reached out and told the families that their names and stories were being used… right? Well, they didn’t. And while the families aren’t allowed to claim/copyright the stories and testimony because it is public record, I feel as if it would have been nice for Netflix to at least tell the people they were going to be in the biopic. I understand that there is no LEGAL obligation to reach out to the families, but I think it would have been a nice gesture–or simply ethical–from Netflix, especially with something so traumatic. 

Rita Isbell, the sister of Errol Lindsey, one of Jeffrey’s victims, described Netflix’s move as greedy. She wrote a letter to the Insider describing how she felt at the moment of the 1992 trial, and how she felt when the show came out: 

I was never contacted about the show. I feel like Netflix should’ve asked if we mind or how we felt about making it. They didn’t ask me anything. They just did it. But I’m not money hungry, and that’s what this show is about, Netflix trying to get paid. I could even understand it if they gave some of the money to the victims’ children. Not necessarily their families. I mean, I’m old. I’m very, very comfortable. But the victims have children and grandchildren. If the show benefited them in some way, it wouldn’t feel so harsh and careless.” 

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