The story of Jeffrey Dahmer (1960-1994) keeps fascinating ‘the entertainment business’. I know the story of Dahmer mostly because of the “Dahmer” album of the “murder metal” band Macabre from 2000. Most elements that Macabre sings about, can be found in the series. There are a few noticeable differences. I will quote Macabre here and there.
The series open with the “man [who] got away from Jeffrey’s apartment. The police came in and Jeff was busted”. Actually quite at the end of the story of Jeffrey Dahmer. Initially the series appear to present two story lines. One from the end working towards history and one from the beginning and on. This does not stay that way.
In the first episodes we mostly see Dahmer. A difference between the series and the Macabre album is that the latter does say that “Jeffrey used to play with road kill”, but according to the series, it was Dahmer’s father who taught him taxidermy, the only thing the boy showed any interest in. Also we witness the problems with Dahmer’s parents. His mother taking a plethora of pills, also while pregnant and his father leaving when Jeffrey was a young boy. His mother did not really take care of him, so Jeffrey went back under the care of his father. Always making trouble, his father sends Dahmer to the army, but he “drank too much alcohol, so he got dishonorable discharge”. The blood bank and chocolate factory that we hear about on the Macabre album are also shortly mentioned in the series.
Not staying out of trouble, Jeffrey is put under the care of his grandmother. By that time Dahmer had made his first victim, by accident. Dahmer started to find out that he was homosexual and when he picked up a hitch hiker he liked, he took him home. When the man “tried to leave, he had to die”.
Later on we find Dahmer going around the local gay scene, picking up gays he found beautiful. He soon started to drug and kill them on the first date. The drugging part was even known in the “bathhouse” scene where gays went to spend the night with their hookups and Dahmer was banned from the bathhouses. Then we get another story that differs between Macabre and the series. Dahmer takes a man to a hotel and when he wakes up in the morning, the man was dead. Dahmer uses a suitcase to get the body out of the hotel. In the Macabre version the taxi driver helped him to get the body in the suitcase.
There is also an episode about one of Dahmer’s victim. Quite a tragic story, as this was the first person Dahmer actually had the chance to build a normal relationship with. He did not even kill them on the first date. Yet, after a night spent together, when Tony wanted to go to work “he had to die”.
The series also put some stress on the father of Dahmer. He left his son when he was young and blamed himself for what Dahmer became. A brave man who kept believing his son could be helped. Also his second wife was a brave woman who stayed with Dahmer’s father even when -after Dahmer’s apprehension- she and the father were slandered in the media.
A big part of the series is about Glenda Cleveland who lived next door of the apartment where Dahmer lived and where he made most of his victims. She kept calling the police, but was always ignored. Cleveland was black and Dahmer’s victims usually had a double reason to be neglected: they were black and gay. Also the (in)famous situation in which a 14-year old victim was brought back to Dahmer who “turned the boy into bones” gets some attention.
And there we have the more social implications of the story. The subordination of minorities, racism and incompetence in the police organisation. It is amazing to see that Dahmer was trialed for harassing a minor, whose brother was later brought back to Dahmer’s apartment to be his 10+ victim. Or Dahmer fined for expose, while his apartment was full of body parts. One of the reasons he did not stop, was that it was so easy, he told the police.
The series also have a bit of an aftermath. “The media circus”, the trial in which Dahmer (in spite of his own request) did not get the death penalty, but 17 times life in prison, his father writing an unsuccessful book, Dahmer growing into a cult figure and -at last- him being bludgeoned to death in prison and one more court case about whether or not to destroy his brain.
So, a few angles on the Dahmer story in a watchable series. Several episodes have been directed by Jennifer Lynch by the way.