Record views and controversy, or how Dahmer became the new Netflix phenomenon

Beyond 196 million of views. We can only start from here to talk about Dahmerthe much talked about (and disputed) true crime that is breaking through Netflix. The data, it goes without saying, would be relevant for any title but it becomes even more so if we consider that here we are talking about a very disturbing story, however true, of cannibalism serial (not surprisingly among the tags there is “horror”) and a film and a documentary had already been made on the Dahmer case. Yet this production is making a splash. At the same time arousing a lot of controversy.

Let’s see why.


Let’s start from the story. The 10-episode series reconstructs the hallucinated world of Jeffrey Dahmer, also known as the Milwaukee cannibal: ours is a real serial killer and, in the 90s, he killed, dismembered, photographed and ate at least 17 men. You understand well that the material alone would be enough to make the skin crawl. Netflix however, it adds one more element: the point of view. Which here is truly unique. To begin with, the true crime Dahmer starts from the end, that is from the day of the capture of the cannibal. It’s 1991, we’re in Milwaukee, and we see Dahmer going to a gay club and luring a handsome black guy. “I want to take artistic photos of you,” he explains. Which is partly the truth: he really wants to take pictures, he just didn’t make it clear that he wants to capture the boy’s internal organs. He clarifies it later, however, when the victim has no way out, stuck in his house. Or at least so he believes: with a ruse, the boy manages to unlock the door (when it is closed there are no keys but only a series of stakes) and rushes into the street shouting for help. So the police arrive and go to Dahmer’s house: he enters, makes an inspection, and finds the unspeakable. In addition to the photos, Dahmer kept a severed head in the fridge, inside the vegetable drawer; a couple of genitals in the freezer; five skulls scattered around the house; a bleached skeleton in the dresser drawers and a giant barrel of acid. Enough to send him to trial immediately.

The racist denunciation

So, we start from the fall of Dahmer and you, at that point, you think: “But then this Dahmer is nothing, if he got caught like this, without even running away”. But then you hit play again, and move on to the second episode. And then the third, fourth, up to the tenth and you find yourself catapulted into a hell of madness and psychosis that also involves the police. The thesis espoused in fact by TV series is that if Jeffrey was able to kill 17 Christians before his capture, it is also because of the negligence of the policeto. The agents would have disinterested in the reports of the neighbors, as people of color. Likewise, since the victims were gay men, the sense of justice would not have been that strong. And this explains why Dahmer does not run away, in the first episode: he now feels untouchable.

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The charm of evil

However, the question of the reason for such success remains open. Because Dahmer is it breaking the bank? After all we are not talking about the latest romantic comedy but a decidedly repulsive horror. Here, perhaps this is precisely the reason. Right from the start, the series reveals the back story of Jeffrey Dahmer: as a child he lost his mother. “Loneliness was a problem,” admits his father, while he is in conversation with the police. Also, still as a child, Jeffrey was operated on for a hernia: “Since then he is no longer the same, he probably had brain damage, perhaps due to the excessive dose of anesthesia”, continues his father. At home, among other things, ours kept a bible of the devil (in addition to the film The exorcist he wanted to see with the victims before killing them). Of course, something broke in Jeffrey and the series drags us into this universe of pain. Even before being wicked, his is in fact very pure and blind despair. On the part of the series there is no attempt at justification, mind you. If anything, we try to contextualize so much evil that, at these levels, is against nature. To do this, the victims are also given a voice, passing from their point of view to that of the serial killer. To conquer, therefore, is the short circuit between a chilling story, which you would define as fantasy but which is not. Thus becoming an even more terrible reality. It is the fascination of evil that holds the spot: the blindest and most incomprehensible one, from which no one is really safe.

The controversy

And here we come, straight ahead, to the controversy. The first can be summarized as: “is it right to give visibility to so much horror? Are there any risks of emulation?”. It is the dilemma that we already posed, years ago, with Gomorrah only here it is exponential: in Gomorrah the good simply did not exist because it was not in fact put on the subject. It was a narrative choice that could be shared or not but which, ignoring “the good guys”, didn’t even question them. Here, however, the good guys are (or should …) be the policemen who, however, do not appear exactly with their backs straight. The attack is therefore twofold, raising more than one moral dilemma. Obviously it arrived immediately the reply of the then district attorney of Milwaukee, Michael McCann: Interviewed by Tmz, he assured that police officers would never turn a blind eye to Dahmer victims due to their race or sexual orientation. “It’s a ridiculous idea,” he assured him.

In reality, the LGBTQ + community and the victims are also unhappy of the serial killer. The first asked to remove the “Lgbtq +” tag among those associated with the Netflix title: despite the denunciation of homophobia, the idea of ​​emphasizing the gay orientation of a serial killer does not excite anyone. Usually, by the way, only representative stories of the queer universe fall into this categorization. After a couple of days, Netflix removed the tag.

As for the victims, they too are not happy to revisit those moments. At a certain point in the series, for example, Rita Isabell, the sister of one of the victims, is called to testify. Errol Lindsey. Well, a few days ago on Twitter Errol’s cousin posted Isabell’s real testimony, comparing it with that of Netflix, asking himself: “Do we still need these films / shows / documentaries?”. Then he explained: “It’s not up to me to tell you what to watch, true crimes go a long way, but if you are really curious to learn the victims’ point of view, know that my family is very angry about this series: there was a need to traumatize. again and again, and then for what? “.

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Ryan Murphy strikes again

Among the reasons for the success there are two of them: the winning combination Ryan Murphy And Evan Peters. The first managed to pass from the cheeky atmospheres of Glee to the most murky crime, convincing in both cases. As for Evan Peters, is almost unrecognizable as the psychopath Jeffrey. He manages to infuse the character with a catatonic charisma, making him even more disturbing – as if it were needed … The actor is also increasingly in demand: he has passed from the Quicksilver of the saga X Men and at Stan’s Posesbut we also saw it in Murder in Easttown (it was Colin) and in WandaWision. In between, she has never abandoned the American horror story, where she plays the role of Tate. And to say that he says he has “a penchant for comedies” …

Record views and controversy, or how Dahmer became the new Netflix phenomenon