By: Megan Hastings
Media Production Editor
When you type a serial killer’s name in Google, what do you find? An array of answers appear regarding their early life or motives. But, chances are, unless you specifically search for it, few results will tell you about a killer’s victims. There are real people who are physically and mentally impacted by the irreversible actions of serial killers who are over. Many of the directors and writers who bring these stories to life, fail to communicate with victims and their families.
The story of 19-year-old Erol Lindsey is one of the many stories exploited by directors for monetary gain. The release of Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story saw positive feedback from audiences until a controversy surrounding the film began to surface. The show focuses on a serial killer and cannibal Jeffery Dahmer, who targeted multiple young men, including Lindsey. During Dahmer’s trial, Lindsey’s sister Rita Isbell gave an emotional victim impact statement that left the courtroom silent. While show creators Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan recreated this emotional scene for the miniseries, Isbell herself commented on the effect these shows have on victims. In an essay published in Insider, Isbel explained how she was not contacted about the show. Regarding her unexpected appearance, she wrote, “It’s retraumatizing over and over again, and for what? How many movies/shows/documentaries do we need?”
The question Isbell poses is one that I’ve been asking myself. Do we need any more of these arguably mediocre TV shows and movies about the same old creeps? The Dahmer series isn’t the first to disrespect a victim and their family. Extremely Wicked; Shockingly Evil and Vile directed by Joe Berlinger, came out in 2019 and sparked a reinterest in prolific serial killer and rapist Ted Bundy. Twelve-year-old Kimberly Leach’s life was cut short by Bundy in 1978 after he kidnapped and murdered her. Leach’s story is featured in Extremely Wicked, to the upset of her close family friends. Lisa Little, who knew Kimberly from childhood, disclosed, “We wish this could get put to rest. We’re tired of hearing about Bundy.” She expressed her concerns about viewers overlooking Bundy’s actions due to popular actor Zac Effron playing him. The same can be said about Evan Peters in Monster.
While I can understand the curiosity of the public, I can’t fathom how people so carelessly consume this type of media without keeping the victims in mind. Producers motivated to gain views and money often fail to accurately represent the victims’ stories. In these cases, victims are taken advantage of for profit and get nothing in return besides grief. True crime media can be important in spreading the word and raising awareness, so I won’t tell you to stop consuming it. All I’m saying is it takes a short Google search to determine whether or not what you are about to watch is respectful to those truly affected.
(Sources: ABC, Insider, Vox)