The ridiculously popular, new Netflix docuseries about the inner workings of Jeffrey Dahmer’s life and mind, has raised some interesting points around race and sexuality

The series works to unearth questions around the American police system, past and present, the relevance of consent when sharing stories like this, and the importance of psychological examinations in the investigations of serial killer cases.

Olivia Schaer, Staff Reporter

 Audiences simply expected a more detailed continuation of the 2017 Hulu film, “My Friend Dahmer,” and stories like it, but were surprised when the show did not glamorize or exclusively focus on the killer himself. 

Although the show works backwards from Dahmer’s third and final arrest and attempts to walk the audience through his thoughts and life transitions, the overarching themes are racial bias and homophobia, and how they played a primary role in the case. 

This is what I found most compelling about the show once I had completed the 10th episode. Along with the incredible performance by Evan Peters, known for his continuous work in the hit series “American Horror Story,” the show does a fantastic job connecting every horrific scenario to the victims and their families rather than coming back to Dahmer. 

However, mistakes were still made in the production and writing, begging the question, did the series have the desired outcome? 

When discussing the show with fellow viewers, many had the same thoughts. “It’s far less scary than I thought it would be!” and “It’s horrific but it didn’t scare me, it just makes me sad.” 

Although the lack of overtly graphic scenes and gratuitous violence was intentional as to “not rehash trauma” for the victims’ families, the overall feeling of sympathy and sadness for Dahmer as a result is not necessarily positive. 

Of course, as discussed in the show, there are always going to be individuals who fetishize the killer or respect them and their flawed minds. The takeaway from this series was not the troubles of a killer, but the trauma of the victims, their families, and the clear judicial inequity when it came to people of color reporting signs of danger and crime.  

While acknowledging that most of the victims’ families inevitably had no interest in participating in the series, Director Joe Berlinger felt the story was worth sharing without full consent. Berlinger believed they had to share, to represent the racial injustice of the Dahmer cases. 

The show works hard to include narratives different from Dahmer’s, despite limited access to evidence other than the Dahmer tapes and the records from Wendy Patrickus, the attorney tasked with dissecting Dahmer’s confessions. Episode six, entitled “Silence”, focuses on one of Dahmer’s later victims, Anthony Sears. 

The episode works to follow him through his life in the late 80s as a gay, deaf, Black man, and slowly shows his relationship with Dahmer. 

The episode begins without sound, but sound becomes incorporated as Dahmer starts to appear in Sears’ life. The series does this again in episode 7, with a woman who had one of the largest contributions to the case, Glenda Cleveland. 

Towards the end of the series the concepts of God and saving one’s soul become a recurring concept. Dahmer speaks with a pastor and decides to get baptized several weeks before his death.

 It was well known that Dahmer was raised as an evangelical Christian, which helped to fuel his racist ideals and repressed sexuality. Throughout his tapes, Dahmer claims that he tried to reach out to his father on multiple occasions to confess some of his “delusional” urges when it came to his perversions around death, but was repeatedly ignored because his father did not acknowledge his sexuality or lifestyle. 

This is shown in the series and is continually touched on after the release of his father’s book, where he writes with regret and guilt that he could not put in the effort to understand his son, even though he may have struggled with some of the same inner dialogue. 

Ultimately the series ends on a low note, discussing Glenda Cleveland’s efforts to turn the site of many of Dahmer’s killings into a memorial park for the victims and their families. The park was overlooked and never constructed. This ending represented the theme of neglect towards the victims, their families, and people of color who were impacted by the Dahmer case.