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Sorry Evan Peters, for Dahmer's victims, nothing good came out of your Netflix show

Dahmer’s Golden Globe victory is another reminder that not everyone benefited from the massive success of Netflix turning trauma into entertainment

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Evan Peters
Evan Peters
Photo: Netflix

One of America’s chief manufacturers, the true crime industrial complex talks a big game. As much as creators like Ryan Murphy like to say that they aren’t glorifying dead-eyed maniacs who kill and eat people, it doesn’t stop fans from tweeting things along the lines of “Jeffrey Dahmer can eat me.” Ultimately, by being played by an attractive, capable actor of Evan Peters’ caliber, some level of glorification is inevitable. Yet the same is not true for the victims on these shows and the families on the sidelines watching others benefit from their loved one’s stories.

In the case of the horrifically titled Dahmer—Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, how the victims fit in has long been controversial. After Dahmer premiered, Murphy defended the project saying, “We reached out to 20, 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. So we relied very, very heavily on our incredible group of researchers who… I don’t even know how they found a lot of this stuff. But it was just like a night and day effort to us trying to uncover the truth of these people.”

It’s almost as if they didn’t want him to uncover the truth about private people made public in the worst way imaginable. One of the victim’s sisters contradicted Murphy’s claims, saying they were never even contacted. In an essay for Insider, Rita Isbell, the sister of Eroll Lindsey, who was murdered by Dahmer in 1991, wrote, “I was never contacted about the show. 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.”

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“The victims have children and grandchildren,” Isbell continued. “If the show benefited them in some way, it wouldn’t feel so harsh and careless. It’s sad that they’re just making money off of this tragedy. That’s just greed.”

Those feelings are still raw in light of Peter’s Golden Globe win. Peters, who did not mention the victims in his speech, thanked “family, friends, and loved ones who helped pick me up when I fell and carried me to the finish line” and “everyone out there who watched this show.”

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“It was a difficult one to make, a difficult one to watch,” he said, “but I sincerely hope some good came out of it.”

However, Shirley Hughes, the mother of Tony Hughes, one of Dahmer’s victims and who was portrayed by Rodney Burford in the series, has been pretty clear that nothing good came out of it. “There’s a lot of sick people around the world, and people winning acting roles from playing killers keeps the obsession going, and this makes sick people thrive on the fame,” she told TMZ. “It’s a shame that people can take our tragedy and make money. The victims never saw a cent. We go through these emotions every day.”

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There is no shortage of criticism about the ethics of true crime and where the public’s fascination with society’s bogeymen ends and exploitative hogwash begins. Maybe Peters simply forgot to acknowledge them as he accepted an award for portraying the most horrible thing anyone can go through. But it’s worth remembering that the victims of these massively successful, award-winning pieces of entertainment are the people already suffering.