Content warning: This article contains discussion of murder and sexual assault some may find upsetting. Reader discretion is advised.

The official release of Netflix's latest true crime series, DAHMER - Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, brought controversy to the streaming platform since it was released in September 2022. While the show is based on the real-life crimes that notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer committed between 1978 and 1991, it is a fictional account that showcases the institutional failures of the police during the time of his killing spree. The characters are based on real people, including the families of Dahmer's victims.

The families of Dahmer's victims have come forward multiple times since the show's release to express the disrespect they feel from showrunner Ryan Murphy. Their latest complaint, though, is directed toward the Television Academy as the series racked up 13 Emmys nominations, including a best actor nod for Evan Peters, a best supporting actor nomination for Richard Jenkins, who played Dahmer's father in the show, and a best supporting actress nomination for Niecy Nash-Betts, who played Dahmer's neighbor.

In July 2023, Thomas Jacobson, a legal representative for the victims' families, called out Netflix and the Television Academy in a statement published in The Wrap. "By celebrating and rewarding these portrayals, there is a risk of normalizing the actions of individuals like Dahmer, potentially desensitizing audiences to the real-life consequences of violence," he said.

"It is essential to question whether awarding shows like the Dahmer series aligns with the broader goal of fostering a more peaceful and compassionate society," Jacobson added, calling out the streamer's focus on making money and lack of compassion for Dahmer's victims. "By capitalizing on the suffering and pain of others, this show prioritized profit and entertainment value over the emotional well-being and privacy of the victim's loved ones."

Upon the show's release in September 2022, Rita Isbell, the sister of a victim named Errol Lindsey, called out Netflix for capitalizing on her trauma following the tragic murder. According to The Cinemaholic, 19-year-old Errol had been running an errand to get a key cut on April 7, 1991, the day he was murdered.

Rita gave an emotional victim impact statement during Dahmer's sentencing and was pulled away by court security in 1992. The heartbreaking moment was recreated for the Netflix series and looks nearly identical to the real event. She told Insider that neither she nor her family was contacted by the streamer to be included in the show.

This content is imported from twitter. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

"I was never contacted about the show," she told the outlet. "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. But I'm not money hungry, and that's what this show is about, Netflix trying to get paid."

"When I saw some of the show, it bothered me, especially when I saw myself — when I saw my name come across the screen and this lady saying verbatim exactly what I said," Rita continued, adding that she hadn't seen any other part of the show.

She also expressed that she "could even understand" if the streamer gave profits from the series to the late victims' children. "Not necessarily their families. I mean, I'm old. I'm very, very comfortable," Rita explained. "But the victims have children and grandchildren. If the show benefited them in some way, it wouldn't feel so harsh and careless."

Another victim's family member that has spoken out against the Netflix show is Shirley Hughes, whose son Tony Hughes was murdered by Dahmer in 1991. Tony, who was hearing-impaired and mute after having gone deaf as a child, met Dahmer at the 219 Club in Milwaukee. According to Brian Masters' book The Shrine of Jeffrey Dahmer, Tony's friend had driven the two back to Dahmer's apartment where he was murdered later that night.

Shirley Hughes spoke to The Guardian condemning the Netflix series, saying that she didn't understand how the show came to be. “I don’t see how they can do that,” she said. “I don’t see how they can use our names and put stuff out like that out there.”

Journalist Nancy Glass, who interviewed Dahmer back when the serial killer was still alive, explained to Bill Hemmer of America's Newsroom that these stories "satisfy our curiosity about how could something like this really happen. Everybody wants to know… how could it happen? Could I spot this? How do I avoid this?” Glass noted, “I know that that may seem bizarre, but I think it’s more about morbid curiosity than romanticism."

Similarly, co-creator Ian Brennan spoke to Page Six and explained that he doesn't find the show to be sympathetic to the serial killer. "I think we show a human being. He’s monstrously human and he’s monstrously monstrous and that’s what we wanted to sort of unpack,” Brennan shared. “We tried to show an objective portrait as possible. We did our homework.”

Co-creator and producer Ryan Murphy also addressed the backlash during a panel about DAHMER - Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story and stated that he did, in fact, reach out to the families of Dahmer's victims. "[The show is] something that we researched for a very long time. And we—over the course of the three, three and a half years when we were really writing it, working on it—we reached out to around 20 of the victims' families and friends trying to get input, trying to talk to people and not a single person responded to us in that process." Murphy continued, explaining that because of the lack of responses, the team was forced to utilize researchers who put in "night-and-day effort [...] trying to uncover the truth of these people."

Netflix has yet to publicly speak on the impacts of their latest series.

Headshot of Samantha Olson
Samantha Olson
Assistant Editor

Sam is an assistant editor at Seventeen, covering pop culture, celebrity news, health, and beauty. When she isn't draping her cheeks in blush, you can probably find her live-tweeting awards shows or making SwiftToks.