Dahmer: Should We Be Watching It?
Is Ryan Murphy's hit docuseries pure entertainment? Or is it something we should be avoiding?
October 31, 2022
Ryan Murphy’s miniseries Dahmer was released on September 21 recounting the cannibalistic and sadistic acts of the eponymous serial killer. But, Murphy’s series polarized audiences, garnering fierce opposition and praise. One side believes Dahmer to be top-tier television for the 2022 season while the other believes serial-killer-centric shows are tired, unnecessary, and disrespectful.
True crime has become a phenomenon within the past 10 years, extending to the depths of modern media. Podcasts, videos, television specials, and movies are infatuated with the grotesque and charismatic serial killer. Dahmer is one of many shows to capitalize on the titular murderer. But, it is often asked whether that trope is overdone.
“How many true crime podcasts do we need?” said Charley Aldana (12). “What else can we talk about?” Murder and the macabre have been popular genres for centuries, but some think that the oversaturation of the media markets marks the end of an era. With so many options, there isn’t sufficient time to find anything fulfilling.
Entire entertainment industries are propped on the backs of murder. “It seems like everyone listens to podcasts or watches a YouTube video about killers,” Emily Melkonyan (12) says. “Especially the Bailey [Sarian] girl. She desensitized us all.”
Bailey Sarian rose to fame by creating makeup tutorials while talking about crimes, Dahmer included. By incorporating something so vile and repugnant with a lighthearted mode of enjoyment, gore and guts are just as palatable as competition and camaraderie.
But, the miniseries is not receiving flak purely for being one example of a list of hundred killing-based shows. Dahmer is, to speak in a sensationalizing way, hated for two reasons: its treatment and public response to the subject matter, and its creator’s repeated pattern of queer killings.
The former topics are the most evident. Pop-culture-based publication The Hollywood Reporter wrote an exposé on Murphy’s treatment of the family of the victims. Recreations and reenactments of spoken testimony and court reports were used without the family’s consent.
The public’s general response to the show was positive, prompting memorabilia, costumes, and merchandise to be created in Dahmer’s likeness. It should not have to be said that emulating and, essentially, glorifying a murder—regardless of charisma—should be denounced.
What sane person thinks to themself ‘You know what? I think I should spend my hard-earned recession income on a t-shirt of someone who ate and raped people? — Charley Aldana (12)
What sane person thinks to themself ‘You know what? I think I should spend my hard-earned recession income on a t-shirt of someone who ate and raped people?
— Charley Aldana (12)
“It’s Mental illness, love. Truly,” she said.
Furthermore, many netizens have taken note of Murphy’s “weird fascination with killing the gays especially those who he doesn’t want to sleep with” as Twitter user @koralinadean says. His shows Pose, American Crime Story: The Murder of Gianni Versace, American Horror Story, and Scream Queens have plotlines centered around the murder of queer characters.
Murphy has been praised for his use of marginalized communities in his TV series. But, he has been raked over the coals for his unnecessarily copious amounts of death. “He’s one of us,” Aldana stated. “But, it’s so weird and freaky how Candy was killed in Pose and then made a docuseries on Versace, a gay, getting killed and then a series about gay people who were eaten.”
Before Dahmer, many felt as if his shows were relegated to a more niche audience. AHS, ACS, and Pose were undoubtedly popular but were created more for the community of people featured within them. Dahmer’s audience appeared to be the general (i.e. cisgender and heterosexual) audiences.
This, then, begs the question: Should audiences be watching and, whether unknowingly or not, capitalizing off of queer, marginalized, and sensationalized murder?