How Historically Accurate is Netflix's Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story?
We acknowledge anything "based on actual events" must allow for a certain amount of artistic license for the sake of continuity and storytelling.
This applies to all genres but seems especially important in regard to true crime. Many victims and their loved ones, hell even the family of the perpetrator, are still dealing with pain and grief while trying to pick up the pieces of their shattered world.
Netflix has released a series based on the life of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. "The Milwaukee Cannibal" story has been told many times, often with little regard for accuracy or the feelings of those close to the story. With a talented cast and crew that have collaborated before on projects such as American Horror Story and Scream Queens, viewers are certain to be impressed from a storytelling point of view, but will they be told the real story?
A sensitive topic, perhaps because it seems so damningly true, is that Dahmer was able to get away with murders for a decade because his victims were predominately persons of color. Dahmer was white, the police initially involved were white, and Dahmer presented himself as homosexual, thereby leading police to believe his victims were as well. To be a POC in the 90s and gay rendered you and crimes against you practically invisible. The old, "they had it coming" mentality still reigned in Milwaukee. Thus, we were pleased to hear Rashad Johnson from Color of Change was to serve as supervising producer.
Niecy Nash plays Dahmer's neighbor, Glenda Cleveland, who reported strange and disturbing observances to police, but they failed to follow up. She still contends the police didn't take her seriously because of her race and we concur. The show covers nearly a dozen times Dahmer's crimes could've been stopped by police. Once, he had a dead body in the car when cops pulled him over. He was able to convince them the stench came from the garbage he was taking to the dump. Garbage. That's what his victims were reduced to in his eyes, the eyes of the police, and the eyes of some who documented his crimes.
Perhaps most offensive was the British writer Brian Masters who not only participated in the '90s era homophobic gay bashing and lack of compassion for victims, he also twice referred to a victim as "deaf and dumb."
Writer/Director Ryan Murphy does a decent job addressing the failures of law enforcement sworn to "serve and protect." The choice of Evan Peters in the role of Dahmer is a good fit. The talented actor has the ability to humanize monsters while reminding us that most monsters are human.
All in all, Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story sticks to the facts without extraneous sensationalism. We need to hear his story, but we also need to hear the voice of his victims. For decades, everyone from cops to social workers and parole officers dropped the ball. We have to do better. As George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."