Imagine walking into a small apartment and immediately being hit with the stench of rotting flesh. Upon further inspection finding pans with mummified hands and genitals, a freezer full of dismembered limbs and flesh, and a 57-gallon drum full of acid containing the torsos of three men (Documentaries). Who could do something like this? A man named Jeffrey Dahmer. Jeffrey Dahmer was a serial killer who murdered 17 men and boys from the years of 1978 to 1991 and engaged in necrophilia and cannibalism (Documentaries). The Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice defines a serial killer as, “…a person who kills two or more victims, usually strangers, at different times and at different locations, with a cooling-off period between the murders. The motive is psychological (intrinsic). The victims might be tortured, sexually abused and/or mutilated, and the serial killer might also participate in necrophilia and cannibalism. The killings are intensified by a fantasy element unique to each killer, and the act of serial homicide is behavior that expresses a personal need of the offender.” (Charlton). Jeffrey Dahmer matches this description displaying these traits. Does this make him a monster? In many ways he fits into Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s Monster Culture Seven Theses (Cohen). In comparing three different pieces of media of Dahmer, a documentary, a movie, and an interview, the documentary best describes his characteristics to connect him to the monster theses, classifying him as a monster.
The documentary tells us about the life of Jeffery Dahmer (Documentaries). It is just like other documentaries, it starts off from the time of his birth to the time of his death. This is an informative film describing his life in a factual approach, with views from his attorney, the prosecutor, a detective, old classmates, neighbors, his father, and Jeffrey himself. As a child, he started becoming withdrawn. He was curious about the inside of animals and began feeling attracted to men. As he grew to a teenager, he struggled with fantasies of violence intermingled with sex. This connects him to Cohen’s thesis VII, The Monster Stands at the Threshold… of Becoming. It states, “This thing of darkness I acknowledge is mine… They can be pushed to the farthest margins of geography and discourse, hidden away at the edges of the world and in the forbidden recesses of our mind, but they always return.” (Cohen). These thoughts were a monster inside him. He tried to fight these thoughts, but they always returned. He realized this was not normal, so he never shared what he was feeling or thinking. This caused him to become very introverted keeping everything inside him. Giving into these fantasies, he killed his first victim in 1978. He was then in relation to Cohen’s thesis IV, The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference. This thesis states, “The monster is difference made flesh, come to dwell among us.” (Cohen). Once Dahmer acted upon these fantasies, he became different in society. People do not usually go around killing other people. The monster from his mind became flesh. He became the monster. He would kill men to feed his own pleasures. This connects him to Cohen’s Monster Thesis VI, Fear of the monster is Really a Kind of Desire. This thesis states, “We distrust and loathe the monster at the same time we envy its freedom…” (Cohen). Dahmer was doing what filled his desires. Wouldn’t we all like to have our desires filled, whatever they may be? According to an article from Penn State University, “Freud [renowned psychologist] believed that when we are in a conscious state of mind, we do not act upon our deepest desires because of the considerations of reality and morality.” (Freud vs. Jung). This indicates people have desires, they just remain in the mind because we do not entertain those thoughts due to societal and moral reasons. The documentary goes on explaining the type of victims he would choose and his favorite hunting grounds. In these years society was filled with prejudice against minority races and homosexuals (Gamble). This ties into Cohen’s Thesis I, The Monster’s Body is a Cultural Body. This thesis states, “The monster is born only at this metaphoric crossroads, as an embodiment of a certain cultural moment-of a time, a feeling, and a place.” (Cohen). His choices consisted of mainly poor African American, Asian and Latino homosexuals (Jenkins). Possibly, Dahmer chose his victims by these characteristics to evade the law, linking him to Cohen’s Monster Theory II, The Monster Always Escapes (Cohen). Although Dahmer was eventually caught, he went undetected for a long time possibly because law enforcement saw the profile of the missing as low priority because of their race and sexual preference (Jenkins). Police even came face to face with an almost escaped victim, releasing him back to Dahmer, deeming it a lover’s quarrel. He was a lonely man and did not want his victims to leave. He tried various methods to keep his victims with him, but none of them worked. Once he felt the time was right, he would dispose of their bodies. He finally found a way to permanently keep his victims with him, cannibalism. He also engaged in sex with his victims sometimes before, but mainly after their deaths. One of the comments people wrote in response to this documentary is, “Watching this just makes me want to lock myself in my room forever and ever.” (Owusu). This indicates this viewer can see this as a terrifying threat, how anyone can be like this and we just do not know. Another wrote, “One sick insane man!!!!” (Rollins). This viewer sees Dahmer as “sick”, indicating his difference in society. I would rate this documentary a 9.5 out of 10. If you are looking to know more about the life of Jeffrey Dahmer and details of his killings, this is a great documentary. It contains the information necessary to connect him to several monster theories. On the downside, it contains graphic details. So, if you have a queasy stomach for gruesome facts I do not recommend sitting down with a tub of popcorn expecting to be entertained. The movie focuses on his teenage years and does not bring out such horrible facts.
The 2017 movie My Friend Dahmer stars Ross Lynch, as Jeffrey Dahmer (My Friend Dahmer). This is a tense role unlike the Austin Moon character he played on Disney Channel’s show Austin & Ally, which is comedic (Austin & Ally). This movie portrays Jeffrey as a socially awkward teenager that harbors a loneliness, has a sexual fetish with a male jogger, and an obsession with dead animals and “what is on the inside”. He makes attempts to fit in and seem normal although it is evident that he is different. Ross Lynch captured the introversion of Dahmer very well, not to mention the resemblance of his character to actual young Jeffrey is eerie. His demeanor throughout the movie is a catatonic-like state a majority of the time with only a few moments of showing emotion. He mostly has a stoic face, makes little eye contact with others, hangs his head low, and says very few words. The lack of talking does not give much insight to what he may be thinking, and we can only speculate by watching his actions and body language. The movie starts out with Dahmer riding on a school bus gazing out the window. The bus passes roadkill and a male jogger that both catch his eye, giving us an idea about what grabs his interest. At school, he learned that acting out brought him laughs, catching the attention of three boys who befriended him. At home, his parents would fight with the contributing factors of his mentally ill mother who drinks. Jeffrey seemed to get swept under the rug with the fights and a favored little brother. As the movie progresses, so does the fighting of the parents. Jeffrey turns to alcohol to cope. He begins to withdraw from his friends, and his passions for the male jogger increase as well as his desires to know “what is on the inside”. Rotten Tomatoes top critics averaged My Friend Dahmer at a 6.6 out of 10 with one critic saying, “A morbidly fascinating peek behind the blood-stained curtains.” (VanDenburgh). I would rate this movie a little less, 6 out of 10. Although he is an obviously troubled person, at points it is hard to not feel a little bad for him and wonder if he could have been helped. He seemed to be very empty, lonely or sad inside but just did not know how to let any of that out to anyone else, hindering possibilities of help that he very much needed. This movie gives viewers insight to Dahmer’s personality before he became a notorious serial killer, but we have little idea what may be going on in his mind and it gives nothing beyond his teenage years. The interview gives us a look into the psyche of Dahmer.
The interview with Jeffrey Dahmer gives the viewers a chance to hear about his life and the crimes he committed in his own words (xCylar). As he was being interviewed, he made little eye contact, showed no emotion, and continually searched for his words. He does not seem to completely comprehend what goes on inside himself. At times he would contradict his words possibly out of the confusion in his mind. Dahmer expressed his feelings and shows an understanding that his actions were “bizarre and strange” but his compulsion took over. He emotionlessly told some details of his crimes, taking full responsibility, but at one point he spoke in the third person, indicating he was detaching himself from those crimes. Jeffrey does not know why his strange thoughts began. He tells how he is glad he is in prison because he still struggles with the same urges and if he were on the street he would probably still be committing murders. A comment from a viewer states, “He seems to be doing his best to explain something he doesn’t really understand himself. So matter of fact, it’s scary.” (angielou123). This viewer sees his confusion and notes how “scary” his emotionless demeanor is when speaking. Another says, “The way he could talk about killing someone like he is talking about making a peanut butter sandwich is very chilling.” (Hill). This person can see the lack of emotion when he nonchalantly speaks of his crimes, just as someone would in normal everyday conversation. I would rate this interview at an 8 out of 10. It gives understanding to what goes on inside the mind of Dahmer and we can see a little of the personality that Lynch portrays in the movie, but comparing this to the documentary, it does not give as much detail about the crimes. To better connect Jeffrey Dahmer to many different monster theories, the information presented must contain essential facts.
Several factors throughout his life connect him to the monster theories. We need to hear about his childhood, adult life, what his crimes were, who his victims were, why he did these things, and what he was feeling. Only one of these three provides this. The movie captures Jeffrey’s personality, struggles as a teenager, and his progression of turning into a serial killer, but tells us nothing about his days during the killings or what was going on in his mind. In his interview, he speaks out directly about his life, which sheds light on how he felt and what he was thinking but gave little details about the crimes he committed. The documentary tells the story of Dahmer with many viewpoints of other people as well as his own. It goes into details of his childhood, teenage years, explains the murders, and what was happening inside him as well as what others had viewed up until his death. Taking all of this into consideration, the documentary gives the most information to link Dahmer to five of the seven monster theories. Jeffrey Dahmer was a man who murdered, had sex with, dismembered and ate pieces of his victims. Jeffrey Dahmer was a monster.
This is a website where people post and view videos. When you scroll past the video there is a section which allows people to post comments on that video. I used angielou123’s comment, “He seems to be doing his best to explain something he doesn’t really understand himself. So matter of fact, it’s scary.” This person’s comment helps point out how he is confused about himself and does not show emotion during the interview. I also used this as reference to what another person thought about the interview with Jeffrey Dahmer. This is not a reliable source, just someone’s thoughts after watching the interview.
Austin & Ally. Created by Kevin Kopelow, Heath Seifert. Preformances by Ross Lynch, Laura Marano, Raini Rodriguez. Disney Channel, TV Series 2011-2016.
This is a TV show from the Disney Channel called Austin & Ally. Ross Lynch plays the character Austin in this comedy show made for younger viewers. I used this to show contrast between the role Lynch plays as Austin, and the role he plays as Jeffrey Dahmer. I feel this is a reliable source to explain the difference in the roles being played.
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Charlton, Richard Wayne, and Jaco Barkhuizen. “Serial Murder.” The Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Jay S. Albanese, Wiley, 1st edition, 2014. Credo Reference, https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/wileycacj/serial_murder/0?institutionId=5312. Accessed 07 Apr. 2018.
This is an article in The Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice. It explains the definition of a serial killer and gives definitions of other types of killers that are often mistaken for serial killers. It also explains different categories and sub-categories that serial killers are classified in based on the way they kill and their motives behind the killing. I used this for the definition of a serial killer, so readers can understand what defines a person as a serial killer. I feel this is a reliable source because it comes from the Credo Reference section in the Crafton library database. They also list all the references they used and cited them throughout the article.
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. “Monster Culture (Seven Theses).” Monster Theory: Reading Culture, University of Minnesota Press, 1997, pp. 3-25.
This is the Monster Culture reading handed out in class. It is seven different theses that explain how something/someone may be a monster. I used this to connect Jeffrey Dahmer to monster thesis I: The Monster’s Body is a Cultural Body, thesis II: The Monster Always Escapes, thesis IV: The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference, thesis VI: Fear of the Monster is Really a Kind of Desire, and thesis VII: The Monster Stands at the Threshold… of Becoming. I feel this is a reliable source because it is scholarly. Cohen has a PhD in English and American Literature and Language from Harvard University, an English professor, and the director of the Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute at George Washington University.
“Daily News: Photos.” www.nydailynews.com. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/notorious-serial-killer-cannibal-jeffrey-dahmer-gallery-1.2974732?pmSlide=1.2974724. Accessed 13 Apr. 2018.
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This is a website where people post and watch videos. I used this as one of my primary texts about Jeffrey Dahmer. It tells about his life and the struggles he went through along with why and how he killed people. This also has various other people telling about their experiences with Dahmer and what they had witnessed or remembered. I am not sure if this is a reliable source, it is a documentary that originally aired on A&E and posted to the YouTube website.
“Freud vs. Jung.” “In Your Dreams.” “Penn State.” Sites.psu.edu. “In Your Dreams.” “Penn State.” 23 Jun. 2016, https://sites.psu.edu/taniasdreams125/2016/06/23/freud-vs-jung/. Accessed 12 Apr. 2018.
This is an article about the psychologists Freud and Jung and how they differ on what dreams signify. Freud believes we hold back desires when awake due to morality and reality so therefore we dream of our desires, mainly sexual. Jung believes that our subconscious is creating a way to help us find solutions to problems we face. I used this for Freud’s belief that we hold back on things we desire while we are awake to help explain that we do have desires, we want them satisfied, but it is not always socially acceptable to satisfy those desires. I feel this is a reliable source because it is scholarly from Penn State.
Gamble, Julian. “Racism in the 1980s 1990s.” “Prezi.” prezi.com. “Prezi Inc.” 10 Jan. 2014, https://prezi.com/vcn3ltqs5yqx/racism-in-the-1980s-1990s/. Accessed 12 Apr. 2018.
This is a Prezi PowerPoint about racism, ageism, and gay prejudice happening in the 1980’s and 1990’s. I used this to present the prejudice happening in the time Dahmer was committing murders. This helps connect him to the Monster Theory I. I am unsure if this is a reliable source.
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This is a website where people post and watch videos. When you scroll past the video there is a section which allows people to post comments on that video. I used David Hill’s comment, “The way he could talk about killing someone like he is talking about making a peanut butter sandwich is very chilling.” I used this as reference to what another person thought about the interview with Jeffrey Dahmer. His comment helps point out how Dahmer is emotionless during the interview. This is not a reliable source, just someone’s thoughts after watching the interview.
Jenkins, John Philip. “Jeffrey Dahmer: American Serial Killer.” “Encyclopedia Britannica.” www.britannica.com. “Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.” 11 Sep. 2017, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jeffrey-Dahmer. Accessed 12 Apr. 2018.
This is an article in the Encyclopedia Britannica that gives a short summary about Jeffrey Dahmer. I used this to reference how it might have been a prejudicial matter in police taking low priority in looking for the missing persons that turned out to be Dahmer’s victims. I feel this is a reliable source because it is the Encyclopedia Britannica and Jenkins is a professor of History at Baylor University.
McPadden, Mike. “The Death of Jeffrey Dahmer & the Evolution of Cruising Serial Killers.” “Crimefeed: Investigation Discovery.” crimefeed.com. 10 Nov. 2017, http://crimefeed.com/2017/11/crime-history-the-death-of-jeffrey-dahmer-and-the-evolution-of-cruising-serial-killers/. Accessed 13 Apr. 2018.
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My Friend Dahmer. Directed by Marc Meyers, performances by Ross Lynch, Alex Wolff, Dallas Roberts, Anne Heche, FilmRise, 2017.
This is a movie based on the life of Jeffrey Dahmer before he became a serial killer. I used this as one of my primary texts. It is a portrayal of his behaviors, struggles, and obsessions he dealt with as a teenager. I feel this is a reliable source because it is based on the book written by Dahmer’s friend John ‘Derf’ Backderf who went through high school with him.
Owens, Nick. “My Friend Dahmer; Everything you need to know about Jeffrey Dahmer before watching.” “Sinful Horror: Horror News, Stories, Facts and More!” sinfulhorror.com. 5 Aug. 2017, https://sinfulhorror.com/2017/08/05/my-friend-dahmer-everything-you-need-to-know-about-jeffery-dahmer-before-watching/. Accessed 13 Apr. 2018.
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This is a website where people post and watch videos. When you scroll past the video there is a section which allows people to post comments on that video. I used Mitchere Owusu’s comment, “Watching this just makes me want to lock myself in my room forever and ever.” This person’s comment indirectly expresses how the details of Dahmer’s crimes in the documentary were scary. I used this as reference to what another person thought about the documentary of Jeffrey Dahmer. This is not a reliable source, just someone’s thoughts on the documentary.
This is a website where people post and watch videos. When you scroll past the video there is a section which allows people to post comments on that video. I used Catrina Rollins’ comment, “One sick insane man!!!!” Her comment expresses how she thinks Dahmer’s crimes are sick. I used this as reference to what another person thought about the documentary of Jeffrey Dahmer. This is not a reliable source, just someone’s thoughts on the documentary.
VanDenburgh, Barbara. “Rotten Tomatoes.” “My Friend Dahmer.” “Rotten Tomatoes.” http://www.rottentomatoes.com. https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/my_friend_dahmer/. Accessed 7 Apr. 2018.
Rotten Tomatoes is company that rates movies, T.V. shows, etc. based on how top critics and other viewers rate them. They averaged My Friend Dahmer at 6.6 out of 10. I used this for reference of what others rated this movie. I feel this is a reliable source for rating purposes because it is a business that rates movies.
This is a website where people post and watch videos. I used this as one of my primary texts. This is an interview with Jeffrey Dahmer. It gives viewers a chance to hear about the crimes and thoughts of Jeffrey Dahmer through his own words. I am not sure if this is a reliable source, it originally aired on Inside Edition and was posted to the YouTube website.