OPINION: Obsession with serial killers, true crime disrespects victims


Keira Lee / Hilltop Views

Netflix’s latest docuseries “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” was released Sept. 21 and immediately drew fan and media attention.

Biopics, a popular genre of filmmaking seen in the past year, have emerged as the new fad in the media with movies like “Elvis” and “Blonde.” But some of these films have recently fallen under scrutiny, like Netflix’s newest release “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.”

True crime content has always existed in a moral and ethical gray area. It is important not to glorify the criminals or retraumatise the victims. Sometimes true crime media disregards victims’ experiences entirely. The fact that some shows will go on without the express permission or consultation of the victims, is extremely unethical. Not to mention the fictionalization of true stories with real people and real victims with real trauma. Many don’t consider the ethics of the true crime content they consume. If there’s a sensational case, it’s likely there’s going to be exploitive content popping up left and right. 

If you really look at all the true crime media in scope, a great deal of it covers serial killers and murderers. There seems to have always been a fascination with crime in society, especially violent crimes, which results in this phenomenon of fandoms for serial killers. This phenomenon wasn’t as prevalent before the internet. However, there were, and still are, people who idolize these killers, as Charles Manson, Ted Bundy and even Jeffrey Dahmer are perceived as attractive and mysterious. Even after their deaths, many serial killers still have a rabid fanbase. It is quite disrespectful to the victims, who seem to get overshadowed by the popularity of the killers.

The Dahmer biopic greatly fails the victims by retraumatizing them. The creators’ goals aimed to tell the story from the victims’ perspectives. Instead, it documents Dahmer’s descent into murder just like every other piece of Dahmer media. The creators of the show didn’t even contact the victims for permission to use their stories or asked the victims how they felt about its creation or if they were okay with it. It is almost like the killer is more marketable than the victims. Nothing wrong with getting profits from the exploitation of victims, right?

The reactions to the show on social media are just as disappointing. Some of the reactions were highly inappropriate like individuals who proudly declared that they weren’t disturbed by the biopic’s gory content. It comes off as very apathetic to the traumas experienced by victims and their families. It’s not cool to brag about being unfazed by graphic depictions of murder and cannibalism. You’re just being a jerk to people who experienced horrific trauma, which is why I believe we need to advocate for more ethical true crime content. It shouldn’t be all about the killer — the victims had names and lives, too. They shouldn’t have to be a footnote in stories glamorizing murderers.

There seems to be no end to serial-killer content. Just recently, “Confessions of a Killer” on Netflix released an episode on Jeffrey Dahmer. What more is there to talk about when it comes to high-profile cases like Dahmer’s and Ted Bundy’s? What is the point in regurgitating basically the same information in fictional and nonfiction media? In Dahmer’s case he was caught and later died in prison. Multiple documentaries and docuseries were made about him and his case, but what more is there to talk about? Have we considered how the constant flow of this media impacts the victims? Is our mere enjoyment of true crime content worth the exploitation of victims?