by Katie Nalle
Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story was released on Netflix on September 23rd, 2022. The series has quickly become one of Netflix’s most controversial releases. The show’s production is undeniably great given that this show was created in collaboration with Ryan Murphy—the creator of Glee and American Horror Story. However, entertainment showcasing prolific serial killers are always bound to receive backlash as many viewers consider them disrespectful and inconsiderate of the real victims.
In the case of the newly released series Monster, many of the victims' family members have reached out to express their disgust with the portrayal of the victims in the show. They claim that the series has “retraumatized” them. Rita Isbell, the sister of Dahmer’s victim Errol Lindsey, wrote a personal essay for Insider describing her feelings about the limited series. Isbell was featured as a character in the series and was portrayed by DaShawn Barnes. Isbell stated that she was never contacted or consulted by Netflix or the show’s creators and that she would have declined the opportunity to be featured as a character in Monster had they consulted her.
Netflix was also heavily criticized for placing the “LGBTQ” content tag on the show. Viewers complained that while technically the show does include members of the LGBTQ community, the representation of gay men in the series is not the representation that they would have wanted. Netflix has since removed the tag from the show’s page.
Knowledgeable sources on the Dahmer murders have also been quick to criticize the inaccuracy between the comparison of the show’s “true story” plot and the actual history of the case. Glenda Cleveland, played by Niecy Nash, is portrayed as living in Dahmer’s apartment building and having met the serial killer. In actuality, neither of these things happened. Cleveland was a resident of the building next door and while she did attempt to alert the police about Dahmer’s suspicious behavior, she never actually interacted with him directly.
Movies and series made by streaming services are often expected to be at least somewhat fictionalized. However, it is extremely important that these productions are created in good faith, especially when there are real people involved. The way Netflix and Ryan Murphy chose to portray the victims matters. The Dahmer case only occurred thirty years ago, and many people who were affected by this are still alive today and do not want to see themselves or their loved ones portrayed in a way that is untrue or unfair.