Devon Thomas25 October 2022 | 10:00

'DAHMER': An (in)appropriately unhinged bimbofication of a monster

In opting to capitalise off of Jeffrey Dahmer's appearance, Netflix's 'Dahmer' series trades what could have been an effective reflection on the impact of a serial killer for disturbing sexualisation.

'DAHMER': An (in)appropriately unhinged bimbofication of a monster

Picture: X/Netflix


Contains spoilers throughout.

In September, Netflix’s clumsily titled Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, hereon referenced simply as Dahmer, and has since become the highest English-speaking series production the streaming giant has ever put out at the time of this article's release.

And let’s face it, whether or not you watched the series, at some point most of us have engaged with it in some shape or form.

To be honest, when I first saw the trailer for Dahmer, I had no intentions of watching it, let alone writing about it.

However, the reception it received, mainly from the general public, both fascinated and disturbed me.

It’s no secret that the world is enamoured with serial killers and the proliferation of true-crime media has never been more popular, but this time it feels particularly unsettling.

Over the last few years, there has been a never-dying trend of young people, particularly young girls, obsessing, glamorising, and even sexualising some of the worst people the world has seen – especially on social media platforms such as TikTok.

All one needs to do to see how wild this is is to search the serial killer tag on the youth-centric platform to find an endless number of videos on the topic.

Whether it’s people doing serial killer POVs (????), showing how quirky and/or hot a convicted murderer is, or showcasing these people in ways that quite frankly feel super exploitative, there really is no shortage of visual confirmation that this has moved from strange to alarming.


POV: stalker serial killer 🔪🩸 — ⚠️ FAKE BLOOD ⚠️

♬ The Perfect Girl - hawk7
@troyosterberg #pov you find out my true identity. #serialkiller ♬ original sound - #PovSounds

♬ original sound
@avi.akbar #pov: a girl unknowingly sits next to the one of the worlds deadliest assassins... #aviakbarpov ♬ origineel geluid - Quotation

In all fairness, there is also a pretty sizable amount of people critiquing this behaviour and calling it out for how dangerous it is becoming.

In short, I think that encapsulates what Dahmer is essentially about – or at least that’s what it comes across as.

See, Dahmer exists in two truly incohesive vacuums: one side wants to glamorise Dahmer, the other wants to critique the glamorisation of Dahmer.

In theory, this could have been a really interesting dichotomy that would have been an effective study on the psychopath and the impact he’s had on society at large.

In practicality, this approach was doomed from the start because of how these two portrayals seemed wholly disconnected from each other.

Like, the show is literally haphazardly divided into two parts that feel like completely separate perspectives with completely different directions.

It’s almost as if one person was briefed to do the first half and the other was briefed to do the second half but neither were aware of what the other was trying to do.

This is reflected in the stark division in its audience reception: half the world finds Dahmer really exploitative and the (very vocal) other half finds Dahmer and its portrayal of Jeffery not only fascinating but also really attractive.

Though I stand firmly on the former, I do understand why the latter is happening.

Apart from the general uptick in viral popularity of serial killers like Jeffery, Ted Bundy and Richard Ramirez, Dahmer makes a concerted effort to portray Jeffrey in the most perversely attractive way it possibly can for five very long episodes straight.

In the first half of the ten-episode series, Dahmer focuses on Jeffery’s life, upbringing, murders, and psychology. It attempts to answer the question of why Jeffrey did the things he did and what led to him becoming one of the most infamous killers in all of human history.

The problem with this is the lens it is shot through - not even halfway through episode one does it become abundantly clear that Dahmer will be shot through the lens of the gay male gaze.

Though the show does play some eerie music in the background that suggests we should be disturbed by the imagery on display, the lens does tempt the viewer to ogle at Jeffery as his ass lays perfectly in frame a little too long while he lays next to a basically nameless victim.

In another scene, the camera pans down as Jeffrey explores masturbation, placing emphasis on Jeffery’s hand motions in his pants interspersed with his face in wicked euphoria.

At first, Jeffrey is unsatisfied with the Playboy models in front of him, but then he thinks back to the animal organs he was playing around with and reaches climax.

I would like to believe that the flashes of squished animal organs are meant to make us uncomfortable with the imagery, but all it really does is make us uncomfortable with the potential that we might be darkly attracted to this.

This kind of imagery of Jeffrey as he explores his compulsions is littered throughout the first half of the season: in a messed-up way, we find out more about the sexuality of Jeffrey than we find out about Jeffrey himself.

By episode three it’s clear that moulding Jeffrey’s story into a homoerotic softcore snuff-like porno was a conscious effort by its creators.

You cannot tell me that not one person on the production team said, “Hey, maybe we should not linger on Jeffrey’s body this much”. They knew what they were doing.

Even down to his general appearance, Jeffrey - portrayed by the super-hot Evan Peters - never had a hair out of place, or a stain on his clothes.

Everything about Jeffrey reads as aesthetically appealing, clean and with nothing out of place.

You also cannot tell me that even in prison, Jeffrey’s hair needed to be perfectly quaffed in every single frame.

The budget for hairspray and hair gel alone must have been astronomical.

This would be a perfectly fine take if it were not for the blatant fact that Jeffrey and the things he did were not based on the idea of reality but were meant to portray reality itself.

To put it into perspective: Jeffrey’s murders take place from 1978 to 1991, meaning that it is highly likely that the vast majority of people Jeffrey’s rampage impacted are likely to be alive. If it weren’t for him being murdered by another prisoner, it is highly likely that Jeffrey, who would’ve been 62 years old, would be alive too.

To put it into cinematic perspective: Jeffrey’s first murder happened the year the movie Halloween (1978) was released, and his conviction happened the year the movie, The Silence of the Lambs (1991) was released.

Though the latter is a weirdly accurate analogy for Dahmer’s portrayal of Jeffrey as a killer, the point is to illustrate that all of this happened pretty recently.

One would think that this would have led to the creators and distributors of the miniseries realising that maybe they shouldn’t bimbofy Jeffrey - if not for the principle of the thing, but out of respect for the countless lives he ruined and destroyed.

Like what did we gain from the many, many times Dahmer really wanted us to know that Peters has a really hot behind???

To quote Tyra Banks, “Get the [homosexual] off the TV, I’m not watching that”.

Also, this is a Ryan Murphy production starring Evan Peters, so what did we really expect?

The show begins its own redemption arc around episode five where it seems to begin shifting focus from Jeffrey to the people around him.

Honestly, it was an okay episode, but it was the first one I didn’t have to fight myself to stop watching.

Then came the show’s two-episode slam dunk in episodes six and seven.

Probably the only episodes I’d consider to be genuinely effective, they marked the moment in the show where its focus shifted off of Jeffrey and onto the implications of his actions.

Episode six centres around the closest Jeffrey ever got to an actual, even potentially healthy, relationship with a deaf man named Tony Hughes (Rodney Buford).

What was so effective about this episode and why it is my favourite episode of the series is that it almost exclusively came from Tony’s perspective.

It doesn’t even start off with Tony and Jeffrey (that kind of happened at the end of episode five). Instead, episode 6 centred the big chunk of it fleshing Tony’s story out before he met Jeffrey.

It highlighted his life, his ambitions to become a model, his really wholesome relationship with his family and close friends, the struggles of dating as a gay black deaf man, and, above all, his sheer resilience to make his life worth more than the world dictated it be.

By the time Tony met Jeffrey, I was in love with him, and he was such a welcome breath of fresh air.

However, because I knew that nothing good would come of this, as the story and his relationship with Jeffrey grew, so did this feeling of sheer dread - especially because the way it was crafted made the audience well aware that he’ll be murdered but not exactly when this would happen. It was honestly brilliant storytelling.

Like, I knew my boy was going to die but because I spent time with him, identified with his story and connected with him, I really, really didn’t want him to die.

Almost six hours into the show and this is the first time I felt anything towards Jeffrey.

See, I spent the entirety of the first half genuinely apathetic towards Jeffrey but by the story shifting focus to the victims and having Jeffrey as a secondary focus, I started hating him. This should have happened in the first episode, bro.

It should be said that Niecy Nash does an incredible performance of Jeffrey’s neighbour, Glenda Cleveland, particularly in Episode 7.

For most of the first half, Glenda was a featured character in Jeffrey’s story but by episode seven, she becomes its main driving force. And for that, Nash deserves every award possible because her performance was the best part of Dahmer next to episode 6.

In typical Ryan Murphy fashion, the remainder of the season is a rushed attempt at centralising the victims, not only the ones he murdered but their loved ones, as well.

We get to kind of spend some time with some of the people who Jeffrey's terrorisation directly impacted.

We even get an episode dedicated to the fanfare his trial and basic white boy attractiveness birthed.

I’m pretty sure the show said it was icky that people were enamoured with a serial killer, but the irony was for sure not lost on me.

Though this shift from killer to victim was a welcomed, although jarring, change of pace, it not only proved that the first half was hellbent on bimbofying Jeffrey for literally no reason other than to capitalise on Peter’s actual attractiveness, but also that there was some competent storytelling, here.

However, by the time it made this shift, it was far too late.

Dahmer spent so much time fleshing out Jeffrey on a purely surface level for the sake of disturbing sexualisation that I had disconnected from the story.

Dahmer could have been a retrospective meditation on the impact a serial killer has on the lives of his victims and the people around him but instead focuses on a man who has, thus far, made no case for the need for him to have five+ hours dedicated to showing how hot it can be to be a monster, or to be seduced by one.

I’d even make the argument that if the show had this focus from the beginning, it would have at the very least justified its existence.

It should have been told from the perspective of Jeffrey’s direct and indirect victims, not to exploit them, but to tell their side of the story – instead of glamorising the monster, take an opportunity to critique what that monster did.

I don’t care about Jeffrey, but I do care about the lives he ruined. That should’ve been what Dahmer should be about. That should have been its focus. The last five episodes prove this and how effective it could have been.

Could have paid respect to his victims instead of paid respect to his pecs, Murphy and Co.

Honestly, if I were to sum up Dahmer, I’d say that it’s just a really, really, really long interpretation of that serial killer POV trend.

Also, Jeffrey himself is an incredibly bland character. I feel like I’m supposed to find him different and quirky, but even in My Friend Dahmer, I just found him incredibly boring as a ‘character’.

Outside of his actions, Jeffrey himself is as basic as these POV e-boys come across. It’s nothing but hairspray, vibes, and a silly goofy mood up there.

@nonstop_00 #jeffreydahmer #dahmer #netflix #foryou #fyp #fypage ♬ Dark Horse(抖音版) - 宸荨
@cfourwastaken How I would of escaped Dahmer 💀 #fypシ #darkhumour #dank #dankhumor #HausLabsFoundation #dahmer ♬ original sound - cfourwastaken

And with a man as heinous as Jeffrey, this shouldn’t have been the case.

Final verdict: Honestly, just watch the documentary Netflix conveniently released one (1) day after Dahmer premiered. I haven’t seen it and it’s probably just as exploitative but it's much shorter.

Giving it a disappointed-but-not-surprised 4/10.

Dahmer is available to stream on Netflix now. Don’t watch it, but it’s there if you absolutely have to.