“It's a shame that people can take our tragedy and make money.”
While the 2022 Netflix series, Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, was one of the streaming network’s highest-grossing series of the year, it’s been continually enveloped in a flood of controversy, most recently following Evan Peters’ 2023 Golden Globes win for portraying the notorious murderer. In a Jan. 12 interview with TMZ, Shirley Hughes, the mother of one of Dahmer’s victims Tony Hughes, expressed her anger over the award and suggested that Hollywood’s pattern of glorifying killers is extremely dangerous.
“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,” Hughes 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.”
Hughes isn't alone in her criticism of true crime as entertainment; more and more people seem to be developing an abnormal obsession with the “true crime” genre, which encompasses everything from books and podcasts to full-fledged documentaries and TV series. On TikTok, some women have even begun assembling DNA test kits using their own DNA in case they become murder victims themselves. “There’s a special brand of white woman who loves true crime and is therefore obsessed with being a victim of a violent crime,” said TikToker @frogmommyyy in a Dec. 19 video. “It’s insane and it’s bad for your mental health, so don’t do this. This is weird.”
In addition to Hughes, several other family members of Dahmer’s victims have criticized the series and its creators for taking advantage of their deceased loved ones and for turning tragedy into entertainment.
“When I saw some of the show, it bothered me, especially when I saw myself — when I saw my name come across the screen and this lady saying verbatim exactly what I said,” Rita Isbell, sister of Errol Lindsey, wrote in a Sept. 25, 2022 essay for Insider. “It felt like reliving it all over again. It brought back all the emotions I was feeling back then.”
While having to relive the tragedy of your loved one being taken from you by a murderer seems difficult enough, it must be much more difficult to see an actor’s portrayal of that murderer receive such widespread praise. “It’s sad that they’re just making money off of this tragedy,” Isbell added. “That’s just greed.” Isbell noted that Netflix had not contacted her in regards to the show, per The Hollywood Reporter.
During his acceptance speech, Peters made note of the show’s heavy nature. “It was a difficult one to make, a difficult one to watch, but I sincerely hope some good came out of it,” he said. He thanked the cast, crew, creators, and directors, but made no mention of the victims or their families. For Hughes and other family members of Dahmer’s victims, glossing over the tragedy of these circumstances is more than careless — it’s egregious. Hughes said as much to TMZ, saying the actor should have used his time on stage to acknowledge the victims or call on Hollywood to end the trend of glorifying murderers.
“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,” Isbell wrote for Insider. “I could even understand it if they gave some of the money to the victims’ [families],” she added. “If the show benefited them in some way, it wouldn’t feel so harsh.”