Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story creator Ryan Murphy is clarifying the research methods that went into the Netflix true crime series amid backlash from family members of victims slain by the titular Milwaukee serial killer.
Murphy shared that the entire production team not only conducted intensive, multi-year research into Dahmer — who murdered 17 men and boys from 1978 until his arrest in 1991 — and his crimes, but also attempted to consult with the loved ones of victims.
"It's something that we researched for a very long time," he said at a series event in Los Angeles' DGA Theater on Thursday, per The Hollywood Reporter. "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."
Taylor Hill/FilmMagic; Ser Baffo/Netflix Ryan Murphy and Evan Peters as Jeffrey Dahmer in 'Dahmer.'
Without the insight from close friends and family, Murphy noted that the team "relied very, very heavily on our incredible group of researchers" to find out more about the lives of Dahmer's victims. He added, "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."
Several family members of Dahmer victims have spoken out against the series since it hit the streaming platform in September. Shirley Hughes, the mother of model Tony Hughes, denounced the show's depiction of her and her son, telling The Guardian, "I don't see how they can use our names and put stuff out like that out there." Rita Isbell, the sister of Errol Lindsey, said she was "never contacted about the show" before its release in an Insider essay.
But, according to Murphy and Paris Barclay (who directed episodes 6 and 10 of the series), Dahmer was centered around the idea of understanding what allowed the serial killer to slip through the cracks for such an extended period of time and also "celebrating" the legacy of his victims.
"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."
"It's about making sure these people are not erased by history and that they have a place and that they're recognized and that they were important and that they lived full lives. And they came from all sorts of different places, but they were real people," Barclay explained. "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."
When actress Niecy Nash — who stars as Dahmer's (Evan Peters) neighbor Glenda Cleveland in the series — asked why a memorial for the victims hadn't been created, Murphy revealed that was something he was keen to rectify.
"Anything that we could do to get that to happen, you know, I would even be happy to pay for it myself," he shared. "I do think there should be something. And we're trying to get a hold of people to talk about that. I think there's some resistance because they think the park would attract people who are interested in paying homage to the macabre… but I think something should be done."
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