Aleasha Hintz — Staff Writer
People have always been fascinated with the macabre. One only has to look into the past to be sure. The Roman Colosseum and the gladiators that fought in it, the tradition of human sacrifice, and a history full of cruel and unusual punishments litters humanity’s history.
It is easy to think we are above that now. Modern society, particularly in first world countries, shuns these acts of violence and discrimination. But there are exceptions.
True crime podcasts, as well as shows and movies that center around criminals – serial killers in particular – have been a popular form of media for a long, long time. Audiences perceive a separation between the actual event and the event presented in the media, and thus deem it a socially acceptable form of entertainment.
However, there have been some disturbing trends within this genre. As recently as ten years ago, true crime was just a presentation of the crime, the evidence, and the criminal. At the very least, the criminal was not the literal star of the show. Popular shows like Criminal Minds, Unsolved Mysteries, and NCIS come to mind. In these shows, the killer is not glorified.
But since Dahmer premiered on Netflix, there has been plenty of backlash on the platform’s original series, and rightfully so.
Dahmer dramatizes and glorifies Jeffery Dahmer for his crimes. The casting of teen heart throb Evan Peters negatively blurs the lines between the real man and the character. Not to mention, the show has brought back a lot of pain for the surviving family members of Dahmer’s crimes. Rita Isbell, the sister of one of Dahmer’s last victims, reported that no one came to ask her how she felt about the show.
Jeffery Dahmer’s fanbase is not a new entity. Even while in prison, Dahmer received plenty of fan mail and even marriage proposals. But through social media, especially TikTok, the fanbase can grow and even influence others.
For example, I have come across edits of Evan Peters on TikTok, posted by true crime enthusiasts. I’ve seen people bragging online about how they were “not bothered” by the content in the show (which does not really seem like a brag to me). In one of these videos, my eyes were immediately drawn to a girl’s shrinky dink earrings of Dahmer’s head. Do not be one of these people. I do not think all viewers of Dahmer are crossing moral boundaries, but we should be careful about the discourse surrounding it, especially with its known backlash.
Ultimately what this has shown me is that we ought to expect more from the producers and writers of this content. The reality of these crimes needs to be apparent in these shows. The characters should not be romanticized or sexualized. And the victims ought to be considered.
I will admit that I have enjoyed true crime myself, and Dahmer really is popular for a reason. But we cannot allow this kind of content to become accepted.