(Credit: Netflix)

Documentary

Was the 'Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story' really true?

Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story is a true-crime series devoted to highlighting facts and scenes from the infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer’s own life. It is a project that has brought renewed success for Netflix, propelling the show to the top of the charts and engaging their subscribers once more.

Produced by award-winning Ryan Murphy, Dahmer’s case gained traction because of the severity of the crimes coupled with a focus on the incompetence of the police department. With that, the series highlights the flippant approach towards the gay community from the officials back in the 1980s. 

Jeffrey Dahmer (played by Evan Peters) was a troubled man who struggled with his sexual fantasies. He was proven to be a cannibal, pedophiliac, and necrophiliac. He was also a serial killer, sex offender, and collector of body parts. The show does a remarkable job of recreating often difficult-to-watch scenes based on real testimonies and records. Even though it succeeds in capturing the darkness that lived inside Jeffrey, it manages to fictionalise at times to support their context. 

What was fiction in Dahmer?

Glenda, Pamela, Dona, and more 

What made the show different from other similar efforts is how much it gave importance to the perspectives of those involved with the incidents. That included ones of his family, his workplace, his peers, families of his victims, and of course, neighbours.

With that, the show also highlights how easy it was for a white male to get away with everything he did in his day and age — even while Dahmer was on probation. In spite of having been complained against several times, officers failed to take appropriate measures, a factor which had the potential to save a number of lives. 

The producers of the show did a remarkable job with accuracy when it came to speeches or testimonies. However, they did choose to change quite a few instances to support the context. For example, neighbour Glenda Cleveland, played by Niecy Nash, was not actually Dahmer’s neighbour. However, as per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, she was situated in the adjacent building. His original house was further isolated than what was portrayed in the show. 

Alongside that, Tracy Williams, the man who finally helped catch Dahmer, was a father of six willing to visit his apartment for some photos in exchange for cash. He was not interested in Dahmer, rather, he was more in need of the money offered by him. 

Yet another important part that the show chose not to include in the plot is Dahmer’s appointed probation officer. He was charged with sexual harassment against a minor. This is when the judge ruled for Dahmer to continue working at the Ambrosia Chocolate Factory. Alongside that, the judge insisted that he gets enlisted as a sex offender. He also authorised probation officer Donna Chester to guide Jeff post his early release.

Donna met Dahmer twice a month post his release. Dahmer later confirmed that she had been present in his apartment when he had human remains in the house. Including gallons of acid, one of his victim’s heads in the freezer, and several skulls.

A gut-wrenching moment for all viewers is when Dahmer came into Glenda’s house. He offered her a meat sandwich he had made for her. Jeffrey’s neighbours confirmed that Dahmer had often gifted them with meat and sandwiches. This includes one of his neighbours Pamela Bass, who, along with Glenda Cleveland’s character, was portrayed in the show as Glenda. In later interviews, Dahmer’s neighbours claimed they most probably did eat some body parts he gifted them without realising. 

The show’s final episode portrayed how criminal Scarver was sent to prison around the same time as Jeffrey was on his path to redemption. How he felt it was his purpose to rid the planet of the monster that Dahmer was. However, according to records, he claimed to be insane during an onward trial. He claimed to hear voices pushing him to take Jeffrey’s life. 

What was real in Dahmer

Polaroids, pills, drugs, and more

Apart from several alterations being made to the plot, the majority of the show is based on reality. Dahmer did gift his school teacher tadpoles. He was indeed blacked out from his yearbook picture. A total of eleven bodies were found in his 213 apartment.

All dismembered parts of the human body, including skulls, detached heads in the freezer, and several bones spread across the house. Pans and pots in his kitchen did contain human remains. The police indeed did find around 78 polaroids of all of Dahmer’s ‘quests’. Rather disturbing reality of serial killers. 

Dahmer’s mother, Joyce, did take a lot of medication during her pregnancy and was later diagnosed with postpartum psychosis. His parents did have a toxic relationship. The show is an anthropological take on figuring out what made Jeffrey Dahmer the monster that he had become. Although he claimed that he always had fantasies of everything he committed later in his lifetime. The battle between nature and nurture will continue until we know better. 

Bathhouses were booming at the time in America, providing safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community in America. With that, Dahmer did get banned from it for recurrent cases of drugging people and leaving them unconscious. However, no one ever filed a case against him for doing so. There were several calls made from Glenda Cleveland to 911, which remained to be not attended to.

The two police officers, John A. Balcerzak and Joseph T. Gabrish, were initially on paid leave post-Dahmer’s arrest and had found a bleeding minor Konerak. They returned him to Dahmer and came back to service after winning a case against the city. However, the award ceremony stating them to be the police of the year was completely fictionalised. 

Most of the family’s testimonies were used verbatim, including Dahmer’s own final statement. The letters he received in prison were also based on reality. The show represents the grizzly sides of an incompetent justice system as well as the lack of required psychological help for individuals such as Dahmer.

Jeffrey never received the psychiatric help that the judge had ruled for him and went on his killing frenzy whilst being on probation. Regardless of being true or not, Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story paints a vivid picture of horrors that have and continue to live amongst us. This show is a must-watch and continues to trend as number one across several countries. Ironically, it continues to highlight the unjust racial discriminators within the system to this date. Give the trailer a watch here if you have not already! 

Dahmer- Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story is streaming on Netflix now.