A serial problem is spotlighted in ‘My Friend Dahmer’

December 7, 2017 — by Isabelle Yang

Of the most hyped true-crime movies of 2017, “My Friend Dahmer,” starring former Disney TV star Ross Lynch, spotlights society’s hidden perversion with serial killers.

“My Friend Dahmer,” debuting in American theatres on Nov. 13,  explores the childhood of one of America’s most notorious serial killers, Jeffrey Dahmer. Convicted of the rape, murder and dismemberment of 17 young men and boys in 1992, Dahmer and his future crimes were treated sympathetically in “My Friend Dahmer.”

By showing the young Dahmer as a neglected and abused child, the movie tries to humanize him. As viewers watch him tormented by bullies at school only to return to a broken family with a mentally unstable mother, the glaring red flags for psychopathic tendencies become more understandable — and more forgivable. Audience members become unknowingly sympathetic when in one of the movie’s most heart-wrenching scenes, Dahmer’s confides with his friends, “I’m just like anyone else.”

Arguably, Dahmer is a neglected and tormented soul; however, he isn’t deserving of sympathy. Above all, Dahmer isn’t someone deserving of the romanticization “My Friend Dahmer” grants him.

The movie continuously suggests that if it were for a different upbringing, a nurturing family, friends who didn’t take advantage of his sociopathic behavior and therapists who recognized his pain, Dahmer could have and would have been “just like you.” Although the movie ends in an eery shot as Dahmer lays with his first attempted victim, there is still the lingering message that Dahmer isn’t the perpetrator of disturbing crimes, he is the unfortunate result of many factors.

“My Friend Dahmer” is credited with being a very accurate insight into Dahmer’s life. This is mostly due to the fact that it is based of the graphic novel done by one of Dahmer’s real friends, John Backderf. Yet, the movie also adopts the similar partial sympathy that Backderf has been noted for granting Dahmer in his graphic biographical novel of Dahmer. This mindset of pitying and romanticizing Dahmer that producers and writers of “My Friend Dahmer” directs viewers towards is one that has the possibility for a threatening manifestation in reality.

Social media platforms like Tumblr have become a hub for so-called “true crime fans” who, in reality, are simply glamorizing serial killers like Dahmer and other morbid crimes perpetrators. Most disturbing, there exists fan communities celebrating notorious serial killers like Ted Bundy and Columbine High School shooter Eric Harris like they would with boy groups and Hollywood celebrities.

“My Friend Dahmer” has contributed to the normalization of serial killers and strayed away from what true crime culture and its fandom intended it to be. The direction and its portrayal of Dahmer is inexcusable. Given the rising popularity of the true crime genre in entertainment, it’s imperative that the story makers and producers aren’t creating a culture of empathy toward crime perpetrators.