Dahmer Reporter Details Biggest Netflix Series' Inaccuracies
Annie E. Schwartz is on a mission. The former crime reporter credited with breaking the Jeffrey Dahmer story is speaking out on where Netflix's Monster gets it wrong.
Ms. Schwartz literally wrote the book on all things Dahmer in 1992 with The Man Who Could Not Kill Enough: The Secret Murders of Jeffrey Dahmer. Just before Halloween 2021, Ms. Schwartz dusted off her true crime tome and re-released it with a makeover and much-needed title abbreviation. The new title, Monster: The True Story of the Jeffrey Dahmer Murders, corresponds nicely with Ryan Murphy's Netflix series Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.
As a Milwaukee reporter, Ms. Schwartz was familiar with the city and its secrets, quick to point out to The Guardian where the Hollywood version gets it wrong. One of the more surprising details she touches on is that despite the killer using the apartment for his own personal butcher shop/repository, the predominant smell wasn't human decomposition, but the chemicals Dahmer used to de-flesh his victims' remains.
Murphy's series also gets it wrong by portraying Dahmer's neighbor Glenda Cleveland (the woman whose repeated efforts and due diligence were spurned by police) as living in the apartment beside Jeffrey. Budgetary constraints and continuity might be to blame for this error. We might forgive the director's error when we take into consideration that Dahmer's apartment number contained within his FBI file is wrong.
Ms. Schwartz tackles the topic of racist homophobic 90s cops involved in the case and states the current social climate and dissatisfaction with police creates an unfair depiction of Milwaukee's boys in blue. She notes:
"I've spent a lot of time with them, interviewing the people who were at the scene [...] it is not exactly easy for law enforcement to get trust [...] from the community, it's not a very helpful representation."
Ms. Schwartz didn't mention the many times Cleveland reached out to police and FBI after law enforcement allowed Dahmer to take the naked, bleeding Konerak Sinthasomphone (who the killer identified as his lover) back to his apartment. Konerak was a child, but he was a child of color, and, if police actually believed Dahmer, a homosexual. While still onsite, responding officers radioed their status report, making nauseatingly tactless remarks about possibly needing to be "deloused" after their encounter. Upon getting the child back to his apartment, Dahmer murdered him. He went on to murder an additional five victims.
By merely pointing out the show's superficial inconsistencies, it relegates much of the brutality and suffering of both victims and their families to the realm of fake lore. That said, Ms. Schwartz might just be a marketing genius. Following recent interviews in which she points to fiction and half-truths in the series, book sales markedly increased, an observation she noted by tweeting:
"Awoke to the news that my book "Monster: The True Story of the Jeffrey Dahmer Murders" is at #52 on the @barnesandnoble Top 100 Bestselling books!"
Ms. Schwartz's book and the timing of its rerelease are perfectly planned and have worked out amazingly. While we may not see eye to eye with her on everything, we always give credit where credit is due.
As for me, the author, my medical background is an asset when conducting research and interviews. Crime scenes and coroner's reports are, at times, so vivid it feels like more curse than blessing. My training and experience, I hope, adds to my empathy and understanding. My concerns aren't really about who lived where, but those who no longer live, and those who had to live without them.