“Dahmer-Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” is Netflix’s latest crime drama series based on one of the most horrific serial killers in American history. Jeffrey Dahmer, also called the Milwaukee Cannibal, is definitely the “monster” in question here, but it would be wrong to call the show only a twisted perspective of the serial killer. Along with Jeffrey’s own story, “Dahmer” also presents the times and social conditions amidst which such heinous acts could take place, but its success in this regard can be questioned. In terms of its making, Evan Peters as Jeffrey and the overall filmmaking are good enough to keep one interested, but the effect that it leaves might possibly be divisive.
What Were Jeffrey Dahmer’s Crimes?
“Dahmer-Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” begins in 1991, in Wisconsin’s Milwaukee when Jeffrey Dahmer is a man in his thirties living all by himself in a rented flat in a neighborhood known for its fair share of drug problems. Jeffrey is not social at all. The only interaction he has other than at bars and nightclubs is with his neighbor, Glenda Cleveland, who keeps complaining about a horrid stench coming from his flat, but Jeffrey brushes aside these complaints every time. One night, he is seen going out to a nightclub mostly frequented by gay men as part of his usual routine, and here he tries flirting with others looking for a casual night of intimate encounters. After a while, he befriends one of the young men, Tracy Edwards, and invites him to his flat, saying that he wants to take some nude photographs in exchange for money. From the moment Tracy enters the flat, things start to seem off to him—the place stinks of rotting flesh, the windows are screwed shut, a mean-looking drill machine casually lies on the counter, and a big barrel sits in the corner of the bedroom. Things only get worse from here when Tracy asks to leave after some time; Jeffrey threatens him with a knife and makes him sit and watch a film with him. Tracy has no option but to feign sexual interest in the strange man, and when he gets the opportunity, he attacks Jeffrey and somehow manages to escape the flat. An almost naked Tracy runs through the night streets and alleys until a police car stops him. He tells them of everything that has happened to him that evening, and the two policemen make their way to Jeffrey’s flat. While searching through his apartment, they come across pornographic photographs of men and then photos of mutilated bodies of the same men. Jeffrey Dahmer is immediately arrested, and an investigation of the flat reveals numerous decapitated human heads, other body and skeletal parts, and the barrel to contain a strong acid used to dissolve human bodies.
As the gruesome details of the whole case were brought to light, along with the fact that Jeffrey was also sometimes cooking and consuming the organs of his victims, the nickname Milwaukee Cannibal was coined and stuck on with Dahmer. The man himself never denied any of the accusations, though, and he himself told the police his entire story. But what seemed even more shocking was the claims of neighbor Glenda Cleveland, who accused the police of knowing about Jeffrey and yet doing nothing to stop him only because he was white and most of his victims were Black.
How Did Jeffrey Dahmer Grow Up To Be Such A Dangerous Human Being?
Born in 1960, Jeffrey’s life had been marked by loneliness from a very young age, owing to the troubled marriage between his parents and also their individual tendencies of neglect towards the child. His mother, Joyce, suffered from postpartum depression and other such mental issues since Jeffrey’s birth, and the crushing responsibilities of being a mother pushed her towards pill abuse. His father, Lionel Dahmer, grew a hatred for his wife because of this, and he himself stayed away from the house and family for a long time. Joyce’s attempts to kill herself by drug overdose seemed like a pathetic means of drawing attention to Lionel, and amidst such a broken environment, it was young Jeffrey who suffered the most. During his years in school, Jeffrey struggled to make friends or fit in with any groups, and the young boy stuck out at most times as an extreme introvert, always fearful of being left alone. It was from a very young age that he developed an interest in anatomy and surgery, though, as it had been Lionel who first helped Jeffrey pick up roadkill animals and slice them up to see what was inside them. Although the boy had never shown any serious interest in other matters, this peculiar enjoyment of cutting dead animals up to see their internal organs stuck with Jeffrey. During his high school years, life obviously got tougher with no friends around, and Jeffrey now started to give up on life. His grades got worse, and the situation at home was also troublesome, as his parents were now finally getting divorced. As a social outcast with nobody there for him, Jeffrey Dahmer took to drinking and soon spiraled out of control and got addicted to alcohol. After his parents divorced, Joyce won custody of the children but left Jeffrey alone in the house and moved somewhere else with her younger son. While Lionel was unaware of Joyce’s absence, he did not really care to check up on his son either way, and Jeffrey was left all by himself in his house for about a period of three months, and it was during this time that he committed his first crime.
By this time, Jeffrey had realized he was homosexual, and he had made multiple attempts to make acquaintance with men around him but failed. He had also kept on with his interest in carving up animals and fish and seeing and touching the internal organs gave him a new and different intimate pleasure. At an age naturally brimming with sexual curiosity, Jeffrey often imagined situations where he was with a man and would even intimately touch himself while thinking of the bladders and intestines of fish that he cut up earlier. Around this time, he came across a man named Steven Hicks, who asked him for a lift to a nearby music festival and brought him to his house. Although Steven was there only to get a lift from Jeffrey, the latter made intimate advances and was quickly stopped by Steven, who also started to lash out with verbal insults. Jeffrey did not fully realize what he was doing when he angrily smacked Steven in the head with a piece of metal and killed him. Failing to take the body away from his house, he chopped it up into pieces and flushed it down his toilet, while burning the bones and scattering the ashes around his house. Sometime later, when Lionel learned that his son was staying by himself, Jeffrey was admitted to the Ohio State University, but his time there did not last long. Jeffrey was continually indulging in alcohol abuse, and his extremely poor grades led to his dismissal from the university. Next, he was enlisted in the Army, and he was discharged from service after some time, again due to his drinking problem. After his return to civilian life, Lionel was unwilling to keep supporting his son financially and made Jeffrey work for himself while staying with his grandmother in Wisconsin. In the following years, Jeffrey got into a number of legal problems due to public indecency.
A number of years later, in 1987, Jeffrey frequented a bathhouse that also served as a hotspot for gay men to socialize and party, and here he first started to try out a drug cocktail to make his partners senseless during intercourse. He had learned of these medicines during his time in the Army, and this quickly got him blacklisted from the bathhouse as well. Around this time, he met a man named Steven Tuomi, who he took to a hotel room to spend intimate time with but ultimately brutally murdered. It was also during this time that Jeffrey first started to boil the bodies of his victims in a homemade slurry of acids that dissolve human flesh over time. From here on, Jeffrey Dahmer continued to commit innumerable heinous crimes in his new apartment, which he moved into in 1988. Over a period of the next three years, he killed fifteen more young men and mutilated their bodies inside his small flat. Sometime in the middle, Jeffrey first tried cooking an organ and eating it, and he would occasionally repeat doing so with some of his victims. Although most of his victims were indeed Black or of a minority ethnicity, Dahmer always maintained that he had no prejudice or hatred against any particular race and had made the men his victims only because they were more readily available to him.
It is extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, to pinpoint exactly why Jeffrey Dahmer turned out to be the person he was. The best logical explanation would be that there were a number of factors at play that all came together to turn him into a living monster. Being sad and lonely from a very young age stunted his social growth tremendously, and during his teenage years, devoid of any friends or company of any kind, he turned to alcohol and got addicted. The only activity he got his father’s company in was cutting up dead animals, and perhaps that was the very initial reason why he liked such an activity. But nonetheless, Jeffrey Dahmer’s actions cannot be simply rounded up as an effect of these reasons, for there was always a strange and weird nature in him, whether it was being physically attracted to the internal organs of living beings or stealing mannequins from clothing stores to make them his companions. As he grew up, the eviler side of him seemed to develop as he found ways to fulfill his twisted desires; both the use of medicine to make his victims pass out, and the method of boiling the bodies out of existence were information and skills he learned from his experiences in life. There had always been the stigma of being gay that Jeffrey faced from his family, and neither his father nor grandmother could accept his choice in life. It is not at all that Jeffrey Dahmer did not fully comprehend what he was doing or that his morals were not normally developed. After his arrest, Jeffrey admitted that whatever he did was gravely punishable, and he was very aware of his actions, but instead, he wanted his life to be ended. Being by himself all throughout life, it seems that Jeffrey had grown up with no ambition or expectation from life at all, and to him, life was just the time he was spending before death eventually came. With no fear of the end, he kept on committing murders one after another, knowing well that he was indeed heading towards what he wanted the most—death. The man also admitted that his actions were largely due to the fact that he craved attention and love from people around him and was always frustrated that everyone around him left him, but he ultimately chose a terrible method to keep people close to him by killing them and storing their decapitated heads with him.
How Did The Matter Also Bring Out Racial Injustice In American Society?
While the first half of the ten-episode-long series mostly focuses on Jeffrey Dahmer’s own story, “Dahmer” puts a lot of emphasis on the victims and the general social condition of the time in the later episodes. Milwaukee, and the state of Wisconsin at large, still had an overwhelming air of racism, both in the administration and the police force at the time. The most outrageous proof of this was in the fact that on one night in 1991, Jeffrey’s neighbor, Glenda Cleveland, called the cops after she saw a minor boy, clearly drugged, coming out of Dahmer’s flat. The police arrived and, after speaking to Jeffrey, concluded that the boy, Konerak Sinthasomphone, was an adult and the trouble he had with Jeffrey was like any other disagreement between a couple. Glenda incessantly claimed how things looked extremely fishy, but her account or opinion was totally neglected because she was a Black woman complaining against a white male. Numerous times after that incident, Glenda called the police to report unusual noises and a stench coming from the vent her flat shared with Jeffrey’s, but the police kept ignoring her. Finally, when Dahmer’s horrific crimes were revealed, she could not help but feel an overwhelming sense of failure, for she had a hunch about the murders being committed but could not do anything about it. The two policemen who had gone to the apartment after the report regarding Konerak had left the fourteen-year-old boy with Jeffrey, who then murdered him brutally. These two policemen were later charged with negligence and were temporarily suspended from duty, but the unabashedly racist police union backed them and claimed that they were being subjected to unjust social hate. Not only were they reinstated to the police force, but the two were also shamelessly awarded the honor of officer of the year. A similar instance of racial injustice playing a direct role also occurred a few years back, when Jeffrey Dahmer was charged and arrested for indulging in intimate activities with a minor boy, and this boy also happened to be Konerak Sinthasomphone’s older brother. However, despite his record as a sex offender, the judge (no need to mention that he was white) ruled that Jeffrey deserved a chance to better his life and sentenced him to a meager one-year imprisonment with reduced charges.
“Dahmer” also makes it a point to bring out smaller instances of racism that the victims and their families faced for their ethnicity. The Sinthasomphones, a family that migrated from their native country of Laos, struggled to cope with the legal proceedings that largely favored the white population, and they continued to receive racially abusive prank calls after Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested. These calls are revealed to have been made by police officers from the police station, as these men saw the minority population as enemies of the police organization and found humor in casual racism. The series itself begins with a news clipping of an incident where an undercover police officer had been beaten to death by white policemen because he happened to be Black, and the killers, therefore, did not believe his account. While it is perhaps true that Dahmer did not use racial discrimination to target his victims, there can be no doubt that the case brought to light the major inequality in society with regard to how Blacks and Asians were treated.
‘Dahmer’ Ending Explained: What Ultimately Happened To Jeffrey Dahmer?
During his court proceedings, Lionel Dahmer and his lawyer wanted to present the defense case in a manner to show Jeffrey as mentally ill and unstable, but Jeffrey himself denied partaking in any such portrayal. He admitted to all the charges and even said that he understood how much pain he had caused to his victims’ families. He was ultimately charged with sixteen continuous life imprisonment sentences for each of the sixteen men he had brutally murdered. During his time in jail, Jeffrey tried to pick fights with the other inmates’ multiple times, possibly to try and get killed by them, and he would also make strange requests to get hold of poison. In around 1994, he happened to find peace in religion, and baptism was also conducted for him while in jail. Ever since his arrest, Jeffrey Dahmer has become sort of a popular figure as a small section of people admire him and are attracted to him. These people regularly wrote him letters and sent him money in jail, and some even insensitively wrote to the families of the victims, asking them to autograph pictures of Dahmer. Jeffrey’s father also wrote a book about his own account, but it did not receive the success that was initially expected. An auction was announced for the personal belongings of Jeffrey Dahmer, the money from which would be distributed to the victims’ families. However, a wealthy real estate developer named Joe Zilber realized how pathetic it would be if Dahmer’s possessions were shown around in society as prized belongings, so he bought off the entire lot at the auction and destroyed all of it while also personally paying the families some money.
Although Jeffrey Dahmer apparently found peace in religion, many of the other prison inmates understandably still had a problem with him. On a November morning in 1994, Christopher Scarver, a fellow inmate, bashed Jeffrey Dahmer to his death with a metal bar in an attempt to punish him for his crimes. Such was Scarver’s rage against the man that one side of Dahmer’s face had been bludgeoned and mutilated from the repeated blows. While Dahmer had initially wanted to receive the death penalty, “Dahmer” makes it seem like death ultimately hit him hard when he was expecting or wanting it the least. The apartment building where Jeffrey committed most of the murders was torn down for a new reconstruction, and Glenda Cleveland advocated for several years for a memorial to be built at the site to remember the men Jeffrey had killed. Sadly, no such memorial was ever built, and “Dahmer” ends with actual photographs of the seventeen men that the Milwaukee Monster had treacherously butchered.
“Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” is a 2022 Drama Thriller series created by Ian Brennan and Ryan Murphy.