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Photo: Netflix Streaming Services
Dahmer, the new Netflix series about the serial killer who acted in the 80s in Milwaukee, is being one of the sensations of the moment, and for much of the younger audience is the first contact with this macabre case of the country’s criminal history. Unfortunately, the series is full of lies, omissions, and half-truths that distort the story with obvious political intent.
The series about Jeffrey Dahmer’s misdeeds is enjoying great ratings and success and receiving high praise for its undeniably great technical craftsmanship and the excellent acting work of its leads, as well as for the morbidly fascinating story of the disturbed Milwaukee cannibal and his victims.
However, it is also receiving a good dose of criticism. One of the first and strongest criticisms has come from some of the victim’s relatives, who claim that although Netflix boasts that the series is told from the point of view of those killed and their families, no one from the production company has contacted them to ask for information, opinion or their consent.
So said the late Errol Lindsey’s sister, Rita Isbell, who told Insider in an interview that “I feel like Netflix should’ve asked if we mind or how we felt about making it. They didn’t ask me anything. They just did it.”
Likewise, a cousin of this one posted a tweet accusing Netflix of “retraumatizing” families.
Some viewers have also complained about how traumatizing and disturbing the series is, and even claim that, in a way, the series contributes to romanticizing the figure of the killer, perhaps because of Evan Peters’ charismatic and brilliant performance.
Nor has there been a lack of criticism with a strong woke accent, such as those that have led Netflix to have to remove the LGBTQ label from the series, since representatives of this community complained that it left the collective in a bad place because the murderer was homosexual, and because the environments he frequented were shown as sordid.
According to Variety, in the midst of the media attention that Dahmer has aroused, an African-American worker on the series reportedly jumped on the victimhood bandwagon, complaining of having been “treated horribly” by her colleagues on the set, whom she described as racist because they always confused her and called her by the name of the only other African-American worker on the crew.
Beyond how more or less legitimate or opportune these criticisms may seem to us, the truth is that they are contributing to divert attention and not to talk too much about another type of reproach that can be made to the Dahmer series, and that is that Netflix lies, tells half-truths and omits widely corroborated details of the case with a clear political intentionality.
Netflix’s lies, omissions, and half-truths in Dahmer.
One of the most obvious manipulations occurs with the character of Glenda Cleveland, whom the series presents as Jeffrey Dahmer’s door-to-door neighbor. According to the series, this African-American woman would be a direct witness to the killer’s crimes with overwhelming suspicions about her neighbor, but was ignored by the police because she was a black woman.
Although Glenda Cleveland existed in real life, she did not live in the apartment next door to Dahmer, but in a nearby building, which leaves us with a completely different scenario than the one the series attempts to portray.
This ploy allows the series to exacerbate the viewer’s feelings of frustration and helplessness, using them to attack the police, who are portrayed as incompetent, if not as accomplices of the murderer.
It is true that in real life Glenda Cleveland called the police to report that there was a young man wandering around and she suspected that something bad had been done to him by Jeffrey Dahmer, but unlike how the series shows it, Glenda was not a direct witness to this situation, it was her daughter who told her what she had seen and her mother merely made the call.
Upon the arrival of the police, Jeffrey Dahmer came out and told the police that the boy was his boyfriend and that he was drunk after a couple’s argument. The series insists on conveying the idea that the police did not give more importance to the situation for two reasons: one, the homophobia of the officers, who ignored the event because it was a homosexual couple; and two, their racism, which led them to ignore the concerns of the black women complainants.
That there was certain negligence and lack of professional zeal on the part of the officers is evident, especially if we judge the situation in hindsight, but it is contradictory to blame this on homophobia. If the officers had really been so homophobic, far from willingly accepting the explanations of a homosexual about his alcoholic partner, one would think that they would have been much more incisive and tried to arrest at all costs the person who supposedly should be the target of their hatred and contempt.
Blaming racism without further ado, as the series does, is also simplistic, especially if at no time is the door left open to the explanation that the patrols could be overwhelmed in a troubled neighborhood and made the tragic mistake of not taking into account the hearsay accusations of a probably upset woman, but believing the version of a psychopath accustomed to lie, deceive and keep calm with frightening effectiveness.
The series’ attempts to serve as fuel for the Defund the Police movement are constant. Another of Dahmer’s most blatant lies is when we are shown an award ceremony for the cops of the year, who are none other than the cops from the previous incident. This award never actually took place in reality, let alone went to this pair of cops.
To top it off, Netflix edits and sets up two consecutive scenes to imply that it is the police officers who had been making phone calls insulting and threatening to kill the Asian father of one of the victims. Clearly an invention fruit of the feverish imagination of the creators of the series, who, remember, did not communicate with the families of the victims.
Another scene included in Dahmer for the greater glory of the Defund the Police and BLM movements shows police unceremoniously arresting Glenda Cleveland’s daughter for being reported after breaking a camera.
A few minutes earlier we were shown some very blond young men dressed as if they were going to the country club, frivolously taking pictures of themselves outside the building where the murders had occurred. When Glenda Cleveland, and her daughter with her baby in the stroller return from a walk and go to enter the building -the one in which in real life they did not live-, they are rebuked and end up breaking their camera. Netflix’s intentions with Dahmer are not exactly subtle.
Although there are many, many other details that rewrite the real story to underpin the current woke narrative, there are two other omissions in Dahmer that do not seem to be the result of absent-mindedness or lack of time (the series has 10 one-hour episodes).
One refers to Tracy Edwards, who could have been another victim of Jeffrey Dahmer, but who in the first chapter we see how escapes almost a certain death and leads the police to the killer’s house, becoming one of the heroes of the story.
While this is completely true, Netflix omits that in real life, the brave survivor’s appearance on television led to his arrest by police in his hometown of Tupelo, Mississippi, on an outstanding charge of sexual assault on a 14-year-old girl who immediately recognized him.
Also omitted is that after facing these charges in the South, he returned to Milwaukee and racked up arrests for drug possession, theft, property damage, failure to pay child support, and bail violation. Last heard from him, in 2011 he was charged with manslaughter along with another homeless man for throwing a man from the top of a bridge. After a plea deal in which he pleaded guilty to aiding the other offender, he got a reduced sentence of one and a half years.
This omission with respect to the hero who led to the arrest of Jeffrey Dahmer could be understood as a nod to BLM which, as with George Floyd, does not seem to take kindly to the full history of its heroic figures being discussed.
Last but not least, the Netflix series omits the statements of Jeffrey Dahmer himself and his psychiatrist -of which there is abundant audiovisual material-, in which the latter confirmed that the former’s crimes were not racially motivated, but that he only looked at the physical complexion of his victims.
In these interviews, Jeffrey Dahmer insisted on taking responsibility and blame for what he had done and became angry when people tried to blame it on society, on an unhappy childhood -which he denied he had had-, or on mental derangement. He said he was solely responsible for what had happened and was deeply remorseful, especially since he stopped being an atheist and began to believe in Christ.
He explained that his nihilistic ideas, lack of purpose, and absence of transcendent meaning in his life were the only things that prevented him from curbing his murderous drive. I wonder why Netflix will have conveniently left this out of their vaunted as thorough and rigorous analysis of the Dahmer case.
Ignacio Manuel García Medina, Business Management teacher. Artist and lecturer specialized in Popular Culture for various platforms. Presenter of the program "Pop Libertario" for the Juan de Mariana Institute. Lives in the Canary Islands, Spain // Ignacio M. García Medina es profesor de Gestión de Empresas. Es miembro del Instituto Juan de Mariana y conferenciante especializado en Cultura Popular e ideas de la Libertad.
Social Networks: @ignaciomgm