I watch a lot of TV. Always have. Sometimes it’s series; sometimes movies. Sometimes I want the escape; sometimes I just need the noise in the background. It can be any genre and I judge only according to intent. If you just wanna show me some car chases and explosions, and you do that, I’m pretty much guaranteed to like it. But if you’re trying to keep me from guessing who done it or change my perspective or open my heart, and you don’t pull it off, I’m pretty much guaranteed to think you made a complete piece of shit. That won’t stop me from watching it though, because I am also not above hate-watching.
And so, about a month ago when that Netflix Jeffrey Dahmer show came out I was ready to hate-watch the shit out of that thing. From what I could tell at the time, it looked like straight trash. The first shaky part was Evan Peters as Dahmer. I think he’s a great actor, for sure, but he’s not often in great things. The second tell was the name of the show itself: Dahmer—Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. I mean, if the title looks like it had three different writers who never talked to each other, the show probably had some problems. The final sign was the tagline. It’s since disappeared from my app, but it was something like, “How did he evade capture for so long?”
One of my biggest problems with the culture of this country is our tendency to portray our evil-doers as geniuses. I hate that shit. Almost every time they’re able to evade capture for so long is because of their own societal privileges or their victims’ lack thereof. Also, I was 10 years old when Dahmer got caught. It was the first time I remember my parents trying to hide the news from me because of how gruesome it was. It’s when I learned what cannibalism meant. I remember Jesse Jackson showing upon the news and my parents discussing race playing a part in the whole thing.
It’s an odd and heavy cultural touchstone for my generation, but the point is I know goddamn well how the fuck he evaded capture for so long. He was white, his victims were mostly Black and brown folks in the LGBTQ community, and the cops—surprise—were fascist dipshit bigots.
I was ready to shatter my TV with hate screams but to my delighted surprise, the show was good! It focused mostly on the lives of the people around Dahmer and his victims. It was very plain in explaining that Dahmer evaded capture for so long because he was white, his victims were mostly Black and brown folks from the LGBTQ community and the cops—surprise—were fascist dipshit bigots. I couldn’t believe it! I was convinced the white man who made this show was gonna recklessly shit all over the truth and the real people victimized by Dahmer. I just couldn’t see a way that whiteness wasn’t gonna rear its little towhead and do all kinds of the wrong thing. But, somehow I had just watched a pretty good show!
And then it happened.
As you probably know by now, while the Netflix show prided itself on telling this story from the point of view of the victims, it turns out the filmmakers didn’t even contact the friends and family of the victims. And so, obviously those friends and family members are being re-traumatized by the show.
So, for years whiteness enabled a killer get away with murdering Black and brown folks, traumatizing their families. Then, decades later whiteness enables a megacorporation to profit from those murders and that trauma while re-traumatizing the families. Said megacorporation also pats itself on the back for at least having the common decency to tell the story from the victims’ point of view … without actually consulting their families. I knew it was too good to be true. Maybe the worst part is that this isn’t actually anything new. White people have profited for a very long time not just from Black murder and trauma, but from the image of such things as well. They used to photograph lynchings so they could then print and sell postcards of murdered Black bodies. The USPS decided to stop delivering them in 1908. Is it too much to ask Netflix to do the same thing in 2022?
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