Netflix’s Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story came out on 21 September 2022 and has been streamed for 496.1 million hours in the first 12 days. The series is a hit, and all for good reasons. There have been various attempts at retelling the story of the real-life monster Jeffrey Dahmer. However, none immersed the audience in perspective as much as Ryan Murphy’s latest series. The story is well-told, from various perspectives, with a tad bit of creative liberty. Moreover, the plot structure makes this series a compelling watch and a nail-biting experience of witnessing a killer mind at work.
Evan Peters as Jeffrey Dahmer
Nothing hits better than a character well-played. Fans may swoon over the celebrated actor Evan Peters, but they also trust the actor when it comes to portraying a much-hated character like Dahmer. Even though Evan brings a certain charm to the camera, it makes the watch all the more thrilling. You get to relate to the fact that his victims thought the same about the killer – a charming person.
In essence, psychological thrillers, or even horror for that matter, stories are told as a reminder of the worldly horrors for the human subconscious, along with obvious entertainment, which makes the story all the more digestible. Achieving the same effect, Evan Peters portrays Jeffrey Dahmer with uncanny accuracy in every shade, be it his early school life portrayal, his alcoholic self, or when he feels possessed by blood lust. Other brilliant performances of this psychopath include Ross Lynch’s striking acting in My Friend Dahmer.
Creative Liberty to Bring Out Underlying Causes on the Camera
Stories are a way to hone the human mind with information and entertainment. Humans have told the stories of monsters through millennia, which have evolved through time. Typically, writers and storytellers employ real-life events to form a story everyone would want to hear. This gives them the creative liberty to incorporate various social elements that would drive the event into occurrence.
Netflix’s Dahmer is laden with fictionalized details and nuances in most scenes. From what we hear from Dahmer’s tapes in real life, the information available does not fill all the details a frame composition on camera would require. Or how the victims must have felt while they were with Dahmer in their final moments. Psychological analysis is easy to convey to the audience in documentaries. Though, to convey the same thing merely through the orchestration of scenes is a demanding task for which the makers deserve appreciation.
The liberty, as mentioned earlier, and fictionalization is evident from the representation of the Milwaukee police. Two cops return an underage victim to the killer after he tried to flee in an indisposed condition. Their pretentious tendency to feign tolerance for the homosexual community and give an unjustified benefit of the doubt to Jeffrey Dahmer, a white guy, clearly depicts the latent homophobia and racism of the department.
The inner workings of a serial killer’s mind are also explored in Mindhunter, another brilliant show.
An Ode to the Victims
While telling stories such as this, the most sensitive aspects remain that of the survivors or the kin of the victims. Netflix’s Dahmer brings various victims to the portrayal in the show, most of them having a much-needed back story before meeting Dahmer. Doing justice to the victims while not glorifying the cold-blooded murderer was quite evident from how you feel more connected to the escaped victim in episode one than Evan Peters.
Such was the case with Episode 6, Silenced. The episode starts with and is dedicated to one of Dahmer’s victims. Tony Huges is a deaf, black, gay person with a life, family, friends, dreams, and pursuit of love. We get to feel him through the first half of the episode, where Tony aspires to be a model and keeps searching for love when he meets a bespectacled guy with a meek look.
You almost feel like you’re in a different show altogether, where you want to see Tony achieve all that he wants. You start to root for him till he meets Jeffrey Dahmer. After that, all hearts break, and you just wait till the monster ticks and acts. The show successfully brings a story of a victim whom no one had ever heard to the screen, where the audience mourns for him. It’s a great accomplishment in itself.
The show may be facing backlash from various communities for reasons justified to them, for instance, the inclusion of this show in the LGBT category just because Dahmer was gay. However, in the essence of what it is, a show with a scary representation and a psychological bender, the makers deliver just what they promise.
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