Marcus High School's Online Newspaper

The Marquee

Marcus High School's Online Newspaper

The Marquee

Marcus High School's Online Newspaper

The Marquee

If it bleeds, it leads


Rita Isbell turns on the TV. As she scrolls through the endless options of Netflix’s catalogs of k-dramas and knock-off horror sequels, she comes across a new show about serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.

The man who killed her brother Errol Lindsay 31 years ago. As she starts the episode, her eyes glued to the screen, her heart begins to sink as she watches her greatest trauma unfold all over again.

The show “DAHMER – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” aired its first episode on Sept. 21, and has already faced an overwhelming amount of controversy, and for good reason. It’s an inappropriate attempt to share the story of Dahmer’s crimes and serves as a prime example of corporate greed in the film industry due to its insensitivity towards the victims. Most families of survivors don’t want such a painful moment of their lives to be displayed as entertainment on Netflix to millions of viewers.

The show centers around serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and the crimes he committed against 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991. In the ’70s and ’80s, queer minorities were constantly vulnerable to police overlook and hate-crimes. If Netflix’s intent was to portray the struggles of gay black men at the time, then they should’ve shared their stories differently, rather than showing them as just victims.

Despite all that, “DAHMER” glamorizes the violence and murder by perpetuating the idea that true crime is purely for entertainment. The show is categorized in the thriller and crime fiction genre, and when it was first released, it was placed in the LGBTQIA+ category on Netflix. No community would want that as representation. Treating the events that happened as entertainment desensitizes people to crime to the point where it doesn’t faze them anymore. And while “DAHMER” is not the first show to profit off of murder, it’s for sure the first to take it this far.

During Dahmer’s trial in episode eight, actress DaShawn Barnes acts as Isbell. She gives an emotional statement to the court, confronting Jeffrey before lunging at him. In comparison to the actual court video, it’s an exact replica. What she was wearing, her body language and what she said, were all a carbon copy recreation that would make anyone relive their trauma. Isbell told the online magazine Insider that watching the scene brought back all of the emotions she felt while defending her deceased brother in court.

While “DAHMER” is a prime example of what not to do to honor victims, the show “Dateline” is the complete opposite.

The show first aired in 1992 and focuses on covering true crime cases from homicide to missing person cases. It also features interviews with the victim’s loved ones and offers a tip number during the episodes.

While the show lacks reenactments of the crimes, it’s still a great example of how true crime needs to be shown. Not providing reenactments avoids unnecessary dramatization and stays sensitive to the topic, unlike “DAHMER.” By telling crime instead of showing it, show producers can get their point across much more efficiently.

While true crime can be addictive, it walks a fine line between entertainment and information. By using victims and their families for entertainment, true crime is in danger of leaving the realm of educating the audience and profiting off trauma. 

Victims are so much more than the characters true crime shows portray. They were real people who had their lives taken —  not just characters to entertain couples while they kick back and relax.

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About the Contributor
Lex Paull
Lex Paull, Online Editor
Lex (she/her) is Online Editor and is super excited for her second year on staff. When she’s not working she loves to binge-watch horror movies and listen to music 24/7.

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