Warning: This article contains discussion of the real-life crimes of Jeffrey Dahmer, including pedophilia and murder.
Following the commercially successful but highly contentious Netflix television series Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, eBay has banned the sale of Jeffrey Dahmer costumes in the run-up to Halloween. The series, which premiered in September 2022 and had Evan Peters in the villainous lead character, quickly became one of Netflix’s most viewed English language programs. Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story presently holds the streaming service’s milestone for most views in an initial week, trailing only Stranger Things season 4.
Jeffrey Dahmer was guilty for the sexual murder and abuse of 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991, with a disproportionate majority of these victims being LGBT persons of color. Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story tells the story of Dahmer’s murders from the killer’s point of view, with a thriller/horror tone that deconstructs a wicked core character’s mind and deeds. The miniseries has been recognized as a major success for Netflix, with a Monster season 2 maybe on the way. It has been applauded for its dramatic handling of suspense and an intensely uncomfortable core performance by Peters.
Despite its commercial success, the background and ethics of Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story have sparked debate, with eBay prohibiting the sale of Dahmer costumes in the run-up to Halloween. An eBay representative described the site’s Violence and Violent Criminal policy and the reasons these outfits were prohibited to EW. Consider the following quote:
“I can confirm that these items are banned on eBay and are being removed under our Violence and Violent Criminal Policy. These items have been prohibited under the policy – this was not a new or recent decision”.
“Per the policy, eBay sellers are not allowed to hock merchandise that either “promote or glorify violence towards humans or animals,” including “films, images, or devices that contain or claim to contain real acts of violence, rape, execution, torture, crime scenes, morgues, dead bodies or body parts of dead persons. The policy also extends to items closely associated with or that benefit violent felons, their acts, or crime scenes within the past 100 years.”
Explanation of the Dahmer Show Controversy
After the success of the Netflix miniseries, a huge increase in the popularity of merchandise connected to Dahmer’s visage prompted eBay to restrict these outfits. The popularity of these things indicates that many people intend to impersonate Dahmer during the Halloween season, continuing a sad pattern of Tik Tok and social media posts cheapening the killer’s murders. This trend has been characterized by people on social media expressing how unfazed they were by the horrific situations dramatized throughout the show’s story, responding to the presence of Dahmer’s actions within Netflix’s retelling as if the events were entirely fictional and without the weight of very true tragedy behind them. Similarly, there has been an obvious glorifying and sexualization of Evan Peters in the role, further trivializing the truth of Dahmer’s horrific deeds and the misery they brought his victims and their families.
In line with this issue is possibly the miniseries’ most heinous flaw: it did not obtain permission from or compensate the families of the victims featured in the dramatization. Finally, this has called into question the ethical justifications for the creation of Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, highlighting that its somewhat shady motives were likely a simple effort to sensationalize the tale for avid true crime audiences without regard for the consequences for those directly affected by it. True crime dramatizations and documentaries abound on Netflix, making it one of the service’s most popular genres, so this Dahmer miniseries is far from the first to be chastised for similar flaws. Being placed directly in the shoes of a killer may be a darkly compelling and frightening narrative device, but Netflix appears to have ignored the damage that a lack of knowledge of real-world ramifications can bring when releasing these series’ like Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. This is especially troubling given that the majority of individuals affected were already from marginalized and under-represented segments of society, which the streaming giant attempted to monetize by tagging the show with an LGBTQ+ tag. They have, luckily, since removed it. Perhaps the criticism will have an impact on Netflix’s future releases, but with the possibility of a second season comes further reason for concern.