Netflix’s Dahmer series exposes the systemic racism that let him commit so many crimes

‘This is a story of deep and systemic injustice of people who were harmed’

Ryan Murphy’s new true crime series Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer story explores the crimes of the serial killer as well as the “continuous institutional  failures and pervasive systemic racism” that allowed Dahmer to carry out his crimes for over a decade. Jeffrey Dahmer is said to have killed 17 people between 1978 and 1991, all of whom were young men.

Out of all the Dahmer biopics, very rarely do any of them focus on the issue of racism in America over the years of Dahmer’s crimes. Netflix’s Tudum highlights how Dahmer was given chance after chance because he was white while his victims were “overwhelmingly young gay men of colour”.

Rashad Robinson, a consulting producer on the series and the president of Color of Change worked closely with Ryan Murphy to ensure the stories of the victims were emphasised throughout the series. Speaking with Netflix’s Tudum, Robinson said: “This is a story of deep and systemic injustice of people who were harmed and all the ways in which society failed them. The systems that had been built to protect did not work. Not by accident, but by design.”

As much as Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story is an exploration of Dahmer, it is also about the victims. “It is a story not just about the victims who were murdered, but about the community, about the chilling impact of not just what Jeffrey Dahmer was able to do in all the harm, but all the ways in which the police, the larger leadership in Milwaukee, the media and so many others in society were complicit,” he said.

As a producer on the series, Robinson wanted to highlight the systemic racism in the Milwaukee Police Department and how its policing failed and “allowed a blond-haired, blue-eyed guy to continually kill and harm people, particularly Black and brown people.”

The injustice Dahmer’s victims faced was ever present in Glenda Cleveland’s storyline, which is one point never spoke about in popular movies and TV shows about Jeffrey Dahmer. Niecy Nash, the actress who stars as Glenda Cleveland in the series said “Glenda was one of his victims too. And her story has been told the least.” Glenda was Dahmer’s neighbour who repeatedly reported him to the police but they did nothing.

Robinson explained how he wanted viewers to “understand how a situation like this takes place”, through the eyes of people “who had their own hopes and aspirations and dreams.”