Why the New Jeffrey Dahmer Movie on Netflix Terrifies Me

Have you watched the new Jeffrey Dahmer movie on Netflix? It feels like everyone is talking about it. I’ve always had an affinity for watching and reading true crime and notorious serial killer stories.

What makes a person commit unspeakable acts of violence against another human being? The morbid fascination with trying to understand evil has exposed my psyche to terrifying tragedies, gruesome deaths, unshakable details, and a sense of deep sadness for the victims and their families.

I don’t understand what is inside me that seeks out these stories—what a sick thing to want to experience secondhand. I’ll never forget the chill that shook my entire body while reading a book by true crime novelist Ann Rule. She expressed that the serial wife killer in her accounting was at the Strawberry Festival carnival in my hometown.

It was right before bed. I had to close the book and put it down. I’d been there at the same time as this man that murdered three of his wives for life insurance. It was the first time I understood that evil is closer than we realize at any given moment, and it looks like you and me.

My body had never experienced the shudder radiating down the back of my neck and spine. And it hasn’t experienced it since. Still, I continued to read and watch more true accountings of someone’s loved one dying tragically and in the vilest ways. Why?

A Slight Change In the Heart

Life experiences. We have all had our share of life’s trauma or grievances; mine’s been especially rough. I’m not preparing a pity sandwich for you to swallow, but after being sexually assaulted and living in domestically violent situations, the stories of others’ misery become less intriguing. It may even become triggering.

Nonetheless, I still watch true crime but consume minimal amounts of that content. And I was excited about the new Jeffrey Dahmer movie on Netflix. I’m not a stranger to the details. Or the mishaps of the Milwaukee police. I’ve seen other accountings of his crimes, and I’ve watched his bone-chilling interviews. But Evan Peters. Need I say more?

The man is a brilliant actor with memorable performances. So to open Netflix to see him in this series was exciting. I could not wait to watch it despite my commitment to no longer binge-watching the ID Channel or shows like Snapped. I rationalized that this was different. And from what I’ve been reading and seeing, I’m not wrong. I’m right, but for different reasons. 

jeffrey-dahmer-movie-reaction

Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story Netflix Debut

Due to my workload coming first, I postponed watching the Dahmer TV series because I wanted to binge it with full attention. But, honestly, I’m grateful my job prevented me from jumping on it immediately, like I would have done only two months ago. 

From what I’ve read, I understand that Evan Peters embodied the role brilliantly and is a convincing Jeffrey Dahmer. But that’s the thing. It’s not a role for a made-up written character. Instead, Peter’s accurately depicted serial killer Dahmers’ looks, mannerisms, behaviors, and explicit details of the crimes.

I never doubted him, but it’s creepy, exploitative, and traumatizing for the victims’ and Dahmer’s families. A replica of Dahmer’s apartment is featured prominently in the series, and his actual apartment is also. I’ve read the accuracy of the apartment in the series is haunting for anyone familiar with the case.

So why would I, why would anyone, want to be entertained by watching an accurate play-by-play of these victims’ final moments of life filled with pure terror? I’m not judging anyone; it’s a legitimate question that I’ve been wrestling with myself.

But, if you lost your life in that manner, would you want it re-enacted for people’s entertainment, enjoyment, or peaked curiosity? Would you want someone to win awards for their performance of the monster who extinguished your light? Would you want your family re-traumatized? Finally, would you want anyone to make money from your brutal demise and your family’s misery?

Now, same questions but instead of your life, it’s your loved one? I think we all know the answer to that. I don’t fully understand what’s changed. But before, what was intriguing is now distasteful and wrong. Why does anyone want to be inside serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer’s apartment to watch him massacre those people as accurately to the cases as possible?

Two Weeks After the Netflix Jeffrey Dahmer Movie Release

I’m blessed to have an obnoxious, out-of-pocket teenage girl with an attitude in this disrespectful generation — that still asks me about these things. She has watched other shows and movies without asking me, but she realized there is something off and wrong about this series. Even if she doesn’t realize that is why she asked me.

She admitted that she had watched a scene at school on her friend’s phone. It was a disturbingly graphic scene, but I’ll spare those details. Do you understand the implications of her confession? These kids are watching it and are so enamored by it that they are pulling it up on their phones at school to infect other kids with images of the young men he killed. Am I the only one concerned by this reality? 

After two weeks of it being inescapable, she revisited the possibility of watching it. “Mom, I know you don’t think I can handle it, but it’s literally everywhere. All my friends at school have watched it and are talking about it. I’m the only one out of the loop. I finished Cobra Kai and need a new show.” Cobra Kai to the Jeffrey Dahmer movie, my God, as a parent, I’m shook.

First, I am saddened by the reality that kids are opening their minds and hearts to this content without adult comprehension. A teenage brain isn’t fully developed, and their emotions and experience are juvenile. What does introducing this content to an undeveloped mind do? I can’t be the only parent that feels this way about our youth watching it.

Second, I pray that my daughter listens to me about this one. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m worried she may secretly watch it because the peer pressure is too much. It’s all over TikTok, as it is everywhere on the internet. Finally, I pray she continues to be a much better teenager than I was because I wouldn’t have even asked. 

Final Thoughts

I’m not judging anyone who watched the new series with our beloved Evan Peters. I’ve admitted to wanting to view it myself. And I still have this part of me genuinely curious about this phenomenon that the whole world seems to be discussing.

It has an incredible cast: Niecy Nash as Glenda Cleveland, Richard Jenkins as Lionel Dahmer, Molly Ringwald as Shari Dahmer, and Penelope Ann Miller as Joyce Dahmer. All that talent makes it further tempting to watch, but I’m not going to. What makes it easier for me to abstain is acknowledging it’s all I can do to lead by example for my teen and be respectful of the families during this difficult time.

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Elizabeth Ervin is the owner of Sober Healing. She is studying to become a Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor and Recovery Coach. She studied Biblical Studies and Early Childhood Education in College and has been in opioid recovery since 09-27-2013.