There is a Jeffrey Dahmer in all of us: How loneliness, dejection and abandonment made Jeff a serial killer

In a scene in Joker, Arthur, before shooting Murray on live TV, asks the live audience “what happens when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash?” The answer is now clear. You get a Ted Bundy. You get an Arthur Fleck. You get Jeffrey Dahmer.

Deepansh Duggal September 26, 2022 13:31:57 IST
There is a Jeffrey Dahmer in all of us: How loneliness, dejection and abandonment made Jeff a serial killer

Netlfix’s Dahmer

“Why does everybody keep leaving me?” asks Jeff when a Black queer man he invited over to his apartment decides to head home after he gets a whiff of human organs rotting in Jeff’s freezer. This is the first time in Netlfix’s Dahmer, when Jeff seems more like a human struggling to find companionship and less like a monster who keeps human hearts stored in his freezer and derives sensual pleasure out of having sex with corpses. It becomes painfully obvious at this point that Jeff, like the rest of us, is hungry for love and affection. He craves company of a friend he can watch a movie with and a romantic partner who poses for him naked as he takes their nude portraits. Except when these companions and romantic partners decide to leave, Jeff murders them in cold blood.

In a world where there are plenty of documentaries and feature films on Ted Bundys and Boston Stranglers, what sets Netflix’s Dahmer apart is that it delves deep into criminal psychology and explores what makes a person a serial killer. There are few documentaries which are willing to portray how the system and society failed the criminals with their lack of empathy. Joker starring Joaquin Phoenix is another fictionalized account which comes close to addressing that criminals do seek help for their mental health issues but are rarely supported in their endeavour to get better. Society doesn’t accept them for their eccentricities and keeps them isolated – which pushes them to the edge.

In a scene in Joker, Arthur, before shooting Murray on live TV asks the live audience “what happens when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash?” The answer is now clear. You get a Ted Bundy. You get an Arthur Fleck. You get Jeffrey Dahmer.

To put it simply, you “get what you f*****g deserve.

Netflix’s Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, holds up a mirror to all of us. It shows a young Jeff who struggles to find love in the world that is mean and cruel to him. Jeff is repeatedly let down by those around him – his parents, friends and the system which unfortunately doesn’t accept queer men like him who are eccentric and don’t really fit the masculine stereotype.

Dahmer, however, doesn’t glorify Jeff or any of his crimes. Neither does it make him appear cool. Jeff gets no shiny dialogues or cool catchphrases. But he does, however, get treated with empathy – we find out more about his early life that made commit horrors which were previously unknown to mankind and what pushed him to the edge of insanity.

Loneliness And Lack of Affection

Jeff grew up in a household where he received little love and care from his parents. They lived in the same house as him but were emotionally distant. Jeff’s parents had their own trauma to deal with because of which, they never understood him. The separation of his parents hits Jeff hard and he is left alone in the summer of 1978 which is also when he commits his first murder. After a childhood which was marked by a lack of affection and care. Jeff’s adulthood, too, was full of loneliness. He was antisocial and his introversion made it difficult for him to find companionship. Jeff was also deeply affected by what people said about him. His loneliness made him want to befriend people and seek companionship which is why he invited people over to his apartment in the first place. However, Jeff seemed to know that much like his parents, these people, too, would leave him eventually and before they could, he decided to kill them.

Abandonment Issues And Morbid Obsessions

Jeff’s way of killing people who refused his companionship and decided to leave him – ,much like the Black queer man in the first episode, – was his way of making them stay even if they didn’t want to. He was scared of being abandoned, especially after his parents’ divorce. All his childhood, He felt that he wasn’t in control and perhaps, killing people was his sick and twisted way to have some semblance of being in control of his life.

Jeff’s obsessions of having sex with mannequins and freezing human organs stemmed out of his fascination with morbidity and taxidermy. What started off with dissecting roadkill took a turn for the worse when Jeff started deriving sensual pleasure out of cannibalism and touching human guts. While Jeff’s abandonment issues gave birth to his murder instinct, it was his obsession with the Morbid which fueled his drive to massacre innocent people.

Dahmer shows that serial killers, who are often considered soulless, cold-hearted monsters who read the Satanic Bible and watch The Exorcist III, are infact like the rest of us. They, too, feel dejected and fear abandonment. They, too, at some point in their lives, craved for love which they did not get. In a strange way, Dahmer shows that there is a Jeffrey Dahmer in all of us – if pushed enough, all of us are capable of doing what Jeff did, if not worse. However, while there is darkness in all of us – we must seek help when the going gets tough and not let the darkness overpower the light.

Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story is streaming on Netflix.

Deepansh Duggal is an entertainment, pop-culture and trends writer based in New Delhi. He specializes in op-eds based on the socio-political and gender issues in the world of entertainment and showbiz. He also writes explainers and occasionally reviews shows in the OTT space. He tweets at @Deepansh75. 

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