Evan Peters’ Performance In Dahmer
Numerous shows, movies, and documentaries have been made depicting the story of infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer who murdered 17 young men between 1978 and 1991. Now Netflix is jumping on the bandwagon or true crime once again with Dahmer- Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. The show broke records as the 9th most viewed Netflix show and racking up half a billion views in the coming weeks since its debut in late September. The show has drummed up both praise and controversy, with the praise landing mostly on American Horror Story’s Evan Peters who portrays Dahmer so eerily well.
The controversy, however, is surrounding the show’s mission which, according to Glee creators Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan, was to bring light to the victims who often go overshadowed as many are drawn to Dahmer himself and the psychology surrounding his heinous crimes
The show feels split into two sections-the first 5 episodes center around Dahmer’s childhood and upbringing and uncomfortably immersing the viewer as closely as it can into his mind. Episodes 6-10 however-episode 6 in particular, hone in on the actual tragedy of these brutal killings, aiming to put a name and story to faces we’ve only seen under Dahmer as the headline. As mentioned, episode 6 “silenced” is especially breathtaking which stars the insanely talented Rodney Burford as Tony Hughes a deaf man who dreamed of being a model that Dahmer murdered. Burford being a deaf actor further cements the need for accurate representation in our media and his performance proves his dedication to the role as well as fleshing out Tony as a person and not just as “the deaf guy who was killed by Jeffrey Dahmer.”
What’s interesting though is the choice to thoroughly display some of the victims experiences while almost ignoring a lot of the others. While the show shows the names, faces, and ages of all 17 victims at the end of the show only about half of them are made mentioned on onscreen. Jeff himself in the show says to detectives he doesn’t remember most of the names of the men he killed, to the detective’s disgust. The show also finally addresses the racial aspect of Dahmer’s crimes, another attribute most often overlooked when discourse surrounding this case emerges.
Most of Dahmer’s victims were men of color that he targted at gay bars in a primarily black neighborhood. One of the most prominent victims with a truly gut-wrenching story is Konerak Sinthasomphone who is portrayed in the show by Kieran Tamondong who was led back to Dahmer after escaping when Dahmer was able to convince police that the 14-year-old was his boyfriend and he had had too much to drink when in actuality Dahmer had attempted to lobotomize the boy which led to his zombie like state. The episode depicting this horrific incident is followed by a real life call from Dahmers’ neighbor Glenda Cleveland who alerted the police when her daughter and niece spotted the boy running away from Dahmer’s apartment, naked and completely disoriented.
The show makes a consistent effort to show the lack of policing during Dahmer’s killing spree, even though they were notified numerous times. The blatant racism and homophobia of the justice system and those who it’s comprised of is undoubtedly one of the most effective aspects of the series and forces viewers to reckon with the extremely broken system that prioritizes the lives of white, hetereosexual, men above anyone else. Still, Dahmer claiming to give light to the victims stories when it’s been reported that many of the victims families weren’t consulted in the shows making seems incredibly hypocritical and almost offensive when considering the profit being made off of someone who’s atrocities ruined and continues to affect several lives.
What’s undeniable however, is Evan Peters and the magnitude of his encapsulating performance. The 35-year-old actor’s mannerisms, speech patterns, and overall stature completely embody Jeffrey Dahmer to a tee. Not a single line is flubbed and not a single beat is missed in this truly astounding performance that will surely open doors to more opportunities for the X-Men: Apocalypse actor. In addition to Peters, Niecy Nash (Claws) delivers raw, untamed, heartbreak and passion playing Glenda Cleveland the woman who stopped at nothing to continuously advocate for justice for the victims and their families as well as her multiple attempts to involve authorities who unfairly disregarded her.
Dahmer truly peaks in the last 5 episodes which finally give a voice to the characters surrounding this fascinating yet horrifying story and allows viewers to question themselves and look inside their own twisted relationship with true crime.
It’s no secret that true crime has always dominated the media. But with an increasingly deteriorating political, social, and economic climate, viewers might find solace in witnessing a story so far removed from their own stressful lives as they try to imagine how evil like this is formed and try to understand the gravity of the grief people like Jeffrey Dahmer caused. Despite Dahmer’s best intentions, clearly not enough outreach to the victims families was conducted and ultimately results in another chilling but oftentimes tasteless story that once again commodifies the crimes of a dangerously inhumane man who will forever be prioritized over the people he hurt.
Ironically and unfortunately, the series has caused more harm than good for the victims’ families as they once again have to turn on the news to see the newest iteration of a story they are all too familiar with.