Director Ryan Murphy knew had a difficult task ahead of him when he decided to do a series on one of the most famous serial killers of all time in Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. The reality of a show like that is there are real life victims and real life family members dealing with that pain.
Murphy provided some insight into how he dealt with the family of the very real people murdered by Dahmer, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The show, he said, took three and a half years just to collect research.
“It’s something that we researched for a very long time. And we — over the course of the three, three and a half years when we were really writing it, working on it — 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.”
Dahmer killed 17 men over between 1978 and 1991. The show has come under fire for focusing on the killer and how it dealt with the murders. Some family members dispute the notion that Murphy tried to contact them.
For example, Rita Isbell, the sibling of victim Errol Lindsey, said Netflix was in the wrong for trying to capitalize and profit on her brother’s murder.
“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,” she wrote in Insider. “I could even understand it if they gave some of the money to the victims’ children. … The victims have children and grandchildren. 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.”
Murphy and director Paris Barclay responded that their intention was to make the victims human and not just another news byte.
“‘Something that we talked a lot in the making of it is we weren’t so much interested in Jeffrey Dahmer, the person, but what made him the monster that he became,’ Murphy said. ‘We talked a lot about that… and we talked about it all the time. It’s really about white privilege. It’s about systemic racism. It’s about homophobia.’”
Barclay said the he wanted the show to “be about celebrating these victims.”
“They weren’t just numbers. They weren’t just pictures on billboards and telephone poles. They were real people with loving families, breathing, living, hoping. That’s what we wanted it to be about.”
Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story is currently streaming on Netflix.