Ryan Murphy says he and the “Dahmer” writing team reached out to 20 family members and friends of the serial killer’s victims over 3 1/2 years, but nobody got back to them.
“Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” which has been a hit for Netflix, drew criticism for its depiction of the horrifying nature of the Milwaukee man’s crimes and how it presented the victims.
“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,” Murphy said Thursday night at a Directors Guild of America event in Los Angeles, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
“And not a single person responded to us in that process.”
Murphy said the group relied heavily on its researchers in what was a “night and day effort to us trying to uncover the truth of these people.”
“We’re all one traumatic event away from the worst day of your life being reduced to your neighbor’s favorite binge show,” said Eric Perry, a cousin of victim Errol Lindsey. “And most importantly, if you’re going to create something that uses real-world people and experiences, you should at minimum contact those people out of respect.”
Lindsey’s sister, Rita Isbell, wrote in an Insider essay around the same time, “I was never contacted about the show. 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.”
A representative for Murphy did not respond immediately Friday to a request for further comment.
When the Hollywood Reporter’s story was tweeted out Friday, leading with the Murphy quote “not a single person responded,” Perry quoted the tweet and added a meme of a woman with a quizzical expression on her face and the words “(putting 2 and 2 together).”
“I wonder why,” Perry wrote.
Dahmer killed, dismembered and, in some cases, cannibalized 17 victims in Wisconsin and Ohio over about 13 years. All of his victims were men or boys and most were gay people of color. Netflix originally had an LGBTQ tag on the show but removed it shortly after release.
Actor Shaun Brown, who played Tracy Edwards, the man who managed to escape Dahmer and led police to arrest him, commented on the show in a Sept. 21 statement on social media.
“It’s very strange getting attention for someone else’s misery. Especially on a global scale,” Brown tweeted. “I’m not naive to the fact that murder and true crime are sensational. However, I ask that in watching this show you remember that these men were sons, best friends, cousins, uncles, and had dreams, hopes, and goals that were never realized.
“I have so much love for Tracy Edwards and I hope that through my portrayal you will also. I hope you have love for all the victims and maybe in time you will have more love for one another.”
Shirley Hughes, the mother of Dahmer victim Tony Hughes, previously told the Guardian that she didn’t understand how the miniseries could have been made and said her son’s story “didn’t happen like that.” “I don’t see how they can use our names and put stuff out like that out there,” she told the British paper.
It was possible because the details of the case, which resulted in a sentence of 15 life sentences for Dahmer in 1992, are public record. And Murphy’s “Dahmer” is only the latest of dozens of television, film and podcast projects to focus on the killings.
“We really want it to be about celebrating these victims,” Paris Barclay, who directed “Dahmer” episodes six and 10, said Thursday at the DGA event. “When Tony [Hughes] writes ‘I won’t disappear’ on that last card, that’s what this show is about. 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.”