Fall is upon us, and many of us are looking forward to snacking on comfort foods while digesting binge-worthy television. In case you haven’t already heard, one of the most talked about fall viewing series is “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.”

News outlets and social media are abuzz about this thriller, which tells the story of one of America’s most infamous killers. On the surface, the series obviously recaps the development of a monster and the murders committed by him, playing to our appetite for the gory gruesomeness often depicted by reality-based crime dramas.

What keeps coming up in conversations about this story is so much greater than the psychopathic tendencies of Dahmer, which led to him luring, drugging, dismembering, killing and in some cases eating almost 20 known victims: He was repeatedly given breaks and free passes by police officers and judges.

According to Anne E. Schwartz, the journalist who broke the story of Dahmer’s killing spree in 1991, the film “sacrificed accuracy for the sake of drama.” In a recent interview with a United Kingdom news outlet where she attempts to separate fact from fiction she states, “Victims of crime in the gay community in Milwaukee in the 1980s and early ‘90s rarely reported offences to police for fear of being outed to family or employers.”

As if this explanation wasn’t bad enough in what it leaves out (law enforcement’s routine abuse and co-signing of homophobia), she goes on to say, “the depiction of city police officers as racist and homophobic was incorrect.”

It remains uncertain as to what vested interest Schwartz has in railing against a primarily white police department’s disregard for its citizen of color and more specifically its LGBT community of color.

As Black contributors to Twitter, some Instagram influencers and a host of other woke folks have been lamenting, Netflix’s “Monster” is a glaring representation of white male privilege operating within America’s landscape of disregard and disdain for the “othered.” With overwhelming aplomb, the series accurately captures a plethora of things wrong with America. More aptly, the film does a good job (whether intentional or not) of putting white male privilege on blast while reminding Black and brown Americans, Black women and LGBT folks of color how much their lives do not matter.

Not even halfway through the series, a principal investor of the case, Detective Murphy portrayed by actor Michael Beach, angrily says to Dahmer, portrayed by actor Evan Peters, during an interrogation what many Black viewers, including this one, were already thinking. With disbelief and disgust, Murphy questions, “You targeted your victims. You purposely moved into an apartment in the Black community, to an area that was under controlled and underserved. And you know that, isn’t that right? Easier to get away with things there, easier to hunt?” It would seem that the detective, a Black man, hit the nail on the head.

Later in the film, and after Dahmer’s arrest, Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., played by Nigel Gibbs, shows up in Milwaukee to hold a peace rally. The intent was to bring attention to the city’s indifferent and neglectful police department.

Nigel Gibbs appears in the role of Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr., in ‘Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.’ Photo: Netflix

One of the civil rights leader’s most profound and accurate lines from the f ilm reads as follows: “The more I learned about the case, the more I realized it was not just a gruesome horror show, it’s a metaphor for all the social ills that plague our nation; bad policing, underserved communities, the low value we assign our young Black and brown men especially if they happen to be gay.”

It’s important to note the proclamations, outrage and support of these two straight Black cis men, because acknowledging civil rights as human rights is a unifying factor that has the ability to prompt equity and justice.

The series’s official synopsis released by Netflix does state that it, “exposes these unconscionable crimes, centered around the underserved victims and their communities impacted by the systemic racism and institutional failures of the police that allowed one of America’s most notorious serial killers to continue his murderous spree in plain sight for over a decade.”

That’s something Schwartz must have missed, along with correcting things like Niecy Nash’s portrayal of Glenda Cleveland actually living in a neighboring building and not the apartment next door as the mini-series shows. Undisputed and more important though, is the fact a concerned neighbor attempted to alert police of something strange and concerning going on in Dahmer’s apartment numerous times. So why didn’t the police act more quickly? Here’s a theory.

The concern came from a Black woman, a demographic that America is historically known for disregarding and abusing. If she weren’t Black, she most likely would have still been dismissed as some hysterical nosey woman (patriarchal sexism at work) – though the dismissal might have occurred more respectfully. We’ve all bared witness to how the fragility of white women has been traditionally upheld – to the point that all it takes is the accusation of a whistle from a 14-year-old Black boy to cost him his life while granting his assailants a free pass.

Dahmer’s victims were overwhelmingly young men of color. From the onset of being brought to America’s shores as enslaved commodities who were viewed as less human, Black bodies have systematically been seized, fetishized and abused. In this sense, Jeffrey Dahmer was merely following suit on a foundation laid by colonizers and perpetuated by the United States government. The roots of structural, systemic and institutional racism run deep. And so does homophobia. When the two or three (sexism, racism and homophobia) intersect, any number of horrors are possible.

Essayist, teacher, poet and activist June Jordan has written on many subjects closely related to the issues brought into focus by this series. In her essay, “A New Politics of Sexuality,” she states: “I believe the politics of sexuality is the most ancient and probably the most profound arena for human conflict. Increasingly, it seems clear to me that deeper and more pervasive than any other oppression, than any other bitterly contested human domain, is the oppression of sexuality, the exploitation of the human domain of sexuality for power.”

For Jeffery Dahmer, a cunning and manipulative individual, his white privilege allowed him to exploit these biases (using sexuality for power) to the point an escaped drug induced victim, Konerak Sinthasomphone, a 14-year-old Laotian immigrant, was actually returned to Dahmer and was later murdered by him. All it required from Dahmer for the Milwaukee police was to lie about the Sinthasomphone’s age, say he was his drunk boyfriend and police left him at the mercy of the cannibalistic serial killer. Lastly, the film also reifies how obtuse authorities can be when dealing with white males with mental health issues. Time and time again there were red flags and court appearances for gateway crimes that simply went ignored while a madman had the freedom to continue a rampage that lasted years.

Meanwhile, Netflix (resulting from pressure from the LGBT community) has removed the LGBT hashtag from the film. Apparently, there were many that found the categorization “gross” and distasteful.

As for this viewer, the most distasteful part thus far has been Netflix’s lack of willingness to compensate any of the re-traumatized families of Dahmer’s victims. Now that’s something we really need to see, compassion, empathy and a monetized acknowledgement of the unnecessary and stoppable loss of lives.

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