The chronicle of the life of Jeffrey Dahmer, experienced through the lives of the people who knew him, or thought they knew him, and the ones who were unfortunate enough to cross paths with him.
It’s almost Halloween so this is my first choice for this festive period. A different type of boogeyman. A real one…
So far, Netflix has been behind superficial and mindless entertainment that makes one wonder how and why they could spend millions on such productions, and, on the other hand, it is responsible for films and mini-series that can shock you to your core. Dahmer is a representative example of the latter. Ryan Murphy, the man behind American Horror Story (2011), is hell-bent on making you feel uncomfortable and he 100% succeeds in doing so. While taking that into consideration, please, read below my review / short analysis, and, if you haven’t watched it, maybe pay attention to certain details. Then, if you have, even retrospectively, use my two cents to compare it to what you thought of it. My aim is to “bullet point” the way the narrative has been approached. Murphy…
… Throughout the episodes spends a significant amount of time trying to “blueprint” the reasons why Dahmer became the “person” he became. Reasons include, but are not limited to:
- The hernia and anesthesia (mentioned twice).
- Mother’s paranoia and lack of love.
- Dad’s obsession with roadkill dissection.
- The parent’s divorce.
- Society’s homophobia (instigated the first murder?).
- The police’s incompetence (mentioned numerous times) and its cinematic depiction give a justification or seek a reason behind Dahner’s psychopathic and murderous tendencies. I presume there is an argument there that if he had been caught and stopped, these tendencies wouldn’t have developed (Dahmer mentions it had become too easy).
- Towards the end though, Dahmer himself suspects that he was probably born like this…
It feels like the blame needs to be shared or has to be put on someone so Dahmer’s mentality and, consequently, actions make, somehow, sense. Pay attention to how much attention is given to the police not caring. Pay attention to the montage (thoughts) after his father asks himself if he could have done more and how deeply he blames himself. Pay attention to how the system didn’t care to counsel him and even let him go with a slap on the wrist after he got caught masturbating in public.
… Throughout the episodes shifts the focus of the series.
While the whole series is provocative and all episodes are spine-chilling, episode 6 is the one that, in my humble opinion, raises the most concerns. Tony Hughes is shown being born, loved, and struggling in life, but being nothing but optimistic. Murphy gets the audience to love him more than any other character and that is right after he got us wondering whose fault it is that Dahmer became one of life’s biggest mistakes and after taking some of the blame off of him to pass it around. Murphy, on this occasion, tricks us into believing that there could have been hope for Dahmer if he had found love, unconditional or otherwise, but, inevitably, hope painfully dies everywhere around him, after all. My question here is simple: Why? Why would you shift the focus like that halfway into it? What is the endgame? What is he aiming at as a filmmaker?
… Revisits the police’s incompetence for one last round.
So, the loss of faith in the system, again. Glenda’s story is one of the countless testimonials where incompetent people undermine others, considering them inferior because they look different. Another question: Who knew that incompetence ruled for so long (and still does)? Answer: Everyone did!
… Treats Jeffrey Dahmer as a case study.
Making it to the last two episodes, it’s not only the focus that shifts this time but also the tone. While it is undoubtedly brilliantly made, the last two episodes become what the rest of the series had avoided that far; “too” Hollywood. The series could as well have ended in episode 7 and further details, such as life in prison, and more, could be delivered with title cards. Yet, this is not the case. The comparison to serial killer John Wayne Gacy opens the door for Murphy to raise yet another question: Could someone like Dhamer be forgiven? Also, can someone like him find Jesus, repent and truly change? I think the answers have been given previously (see Episode 6) and there is no reason to keep investigating that. Furthermore, I believe that Murphy wanted to raise even more questions (as if there is not enough to take in that far): Could the two serial killers be considered as one and the same? In other words, do their motives differentiate them or should they both be treated socially, clinically, and legally the same way? Be it as it may, to me, the only positive here is that we get more of Niecy Nash’s wonderful acting.
And that applies to every actor/actress participating in the series. Without the charismatic acting of, first and foremost, Evans Peter, and then Richard Jenkins, Molly Ringwald, Michael Learned, Karen Malina White, Rodney Burford, Shaun Brown, and everyone who even briefly appears in front of the camera, the series wouldn’t have been the same.
The series is, purposefully, manipulative and the order of the tragic and horrific events becomes, cinematically, as important as the events themselves. The non-chronological way of telling the story, the importance of when to start and how to finish, and what to include and what to leave out are all part of a narrative that, as stated above, is meant to shock. Every episode becomes a testament to Dahmer’s character, and every episode builds up his gradual monstrosity, which raises more and more questions about the world we live in. Speaking of the monstrosity, I’ll leave you with some food for thought. Keeping in mind that this is a real person when the series’ title reads: Dahner – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, what kind of monster does it refer it to?
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Solidarity for Ukraine 🇺🇦 🙏
P.S. It’s funny how Netflix raises the issue of Lionel Dahmer profiting from the book and the publishing company from the graphic novel. If you know what I mean…