Why Jeffrey Dahmer’s Halloween Costumes Are Raising A Moral Debate

The disguises of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer are not unanimous and raise moral questions.

HALLOWEEN – Vampire, zombie or skeleton… In the middle of these classics Halloweena suit is particularly popular this year: that of the American serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer, who raged between 1978 and 1991. But the trend of disguises does not go down well with everyone, and particularly the families of the victims. It even raises a real moral debate.

At the origin of the madness around Dahmer, the eponymous series by Ryan Murphy, a real hit of the fall on netflix. It tells the story of the one nicknamed the “Cannibal of Milwaukee”which claimed 17 victims, mostly young black and homosexualsbefore being murdered in prison in 1994.

In France, the controversy crystallized around a Halloween party, entitled “Dahmer is back” and organized by a nightclub in Aix-en-Provence, the Complex club. The manager, Fabrice*, joined by The HuffPostsaid he wanted “surfing on success netflix » but having made a mistake: he reshared in story the editing of a ” clumsy customer” without realizing that real images of the corpses of the killer’s victims had been added to the visual of the evening – which only took up the face of the Dahmer of the series. Which earned him a slew of criticism, “dozens of hate messages and threats. »

But Dahmer mania don’t stop there. According to the Google Trends tool, the search including the keywords “Dahmer Suit” has been constantly increasing in the world since last September 21… The day the series was released. On TikTok and Twitter, enthusiastic Internet users have shared their costumes or their good plans to acquire the accessories necessary for its successful realization.

The backlash was violent. Many have challenged them on social networks, denouncing a morbid fetishism and claiming that it is disrespectful to wear the disguise of a serial killer who really existed, insofar as the families of the victims are still alive. Ebay even banned the sale of Dahmer’s costumes, according to an article by BuzzFeed. Because seizing a real figure to make it a Halloween costume or an evening theme raises several ethical debates.

A real story

“What seems disturbing to me is that we are dealing with a real story where certain protagonists are still from this world. They had to rebuild themselves after this story, they still have a trauma. It puts them back in something… And for the show,” advance Patrick Avrane, psychoanalyst contacted by The HuffPostalso author of The various facts. A psychoanalysis.

“Halloween, it allows once a year to play with death and get rid of it. It has an anxiolytic side”he recalls, before warning: “Dressing up as a real person, regardless of the relatives who are there, is not the same as dressing up as a pumpkin or a skeleton. There is something disrespectful. »

Also contacted by us, the psychologist Samuel Dock denounces “ the total immorality of this choice, which is all the more flagrant in that Dahmer only attacked a specific target: homosexuals. This costume carries this abjection, a hate speech. »

Why do we dress up?

He recalls the function of the disguise: “We seize what scares us in order to be able to put it at a distance by becoming the monster. » But he points out a difference: “Jeffrey Dahmer is not a mythological figure, nor a cultural icon. He really existed. » The psychologist then asks: “When we dress up as a vampire, we symbolize a myth that has passed through the ages and that opens up a whole narrative. »

For him, a disguise of Jeffrey Dahmer “does not symbolize anything. We seize the representation of a psychopathic person » before comparing him to another famous serial killer: “Jack the Ripper is a figure that has become eminently literary. The mythical side is formed over time. He has a very mysterious side. It exists in a symbolic dimension, which is not the case with Jeffrey Dahmer. Jack the Ripper, few people could trace the timeline. »

He then invites us to reflect on the question: “What are we celebrating when we knowingly choose to take on the features of a person who really existed and committed acts of barbarism? » According to him, some people who dress up as Dahmer may be victims ” a mechanism of identification with the aggressor by taking on the appearance of the monster. » He denounces a “kind of fashion and tendency to identify with the figure of the psychopath”, which would reveal a feeling of helplessness which leads to placing oneself in the position of the executioner rather than that of the victim.

A series that was already raising debates

But according to Samuel Dock, the moral debate around this disguise is biased from the start by “the director’s posture in the way of doing things. » He refers to another controversy surrounding the series: Rita Isbell, the sister of one of the victims, criticizes the series for not having consulted her before recreating almost identically a scene from the trial where she loses her means against Jeffrey Dahmer. “It distorts the debate. Insofar as even the series is already the subject of an ethical debate, one can ask the question of choosing a disguise of this person. »

A series that also accentuates the voyeurism of some viewers, according to Patrick Avrane: “Criminal cases raise questions because we wonder what is going on, we are always afraid that it will happen to us. Asking about it is a way to protect yourself. In the case of Dahmer, I think the staging turns curiosity into voyeurism. » Despite these controversies, sordid criminal cases of this style have always generated interest and these ethical questions also apply to other serial killers.

As for the manager of the Complex club, he claims to understand the anger of some. But he believes that he cannot reach the families of the victims in the United States, due to the limited reach of his club: “We have 5,000 followers on our networks. » Despite the controversy, he maintains the evening, changing the name, which he considers awkward, from “Dahmer is back” at “Dahmer will not be back. »

* The manager of the nightclub wished to remain anonymous.

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Why Jeffrey Dahmer’s Halloween Costumes Are Raising A Moral Debate