Jeffrey Dahmer was born in 1960 in Milwaukee, a small town in Wisconsin, USA. His father, Lionel Harbert, was a university professor of chemistry, his mother – Joyce Annette Flynt – a trainer of teletypewriters. German, Welsh, Scottish, Irish chromosomes. Jeffrey, when he begins to kill, is a shy blond boy, with a decidedly “German” appearance, the prototype Caucasian American. So middle class. His parents start arguing violently when he is a child. His mother probably suffered from severe depression: she filled herself with psychotropic drugs and was an alcoholic. The father begins to no longer be at home, and has an affair with another woman. One day little Jeffrey comes home alone from school, and in the deserted house he finds his little brother screaming excruciatingly in the cot and his mother pouring an overdose on her bed: he saves her by calling an ambulance.
The bad childhood of the killers
We are all attracted to those who violate taboos. Soft the English say, it is morbid, sick this horrified and excited approach to the Evil that we dare not do. In House of the Dragon we are seduced by the incestuous charm of House Targaryen: brothers who marry sisters who churn out children who are sometimes alive, sometimes dead and deformed; uncles marrying nieces; cousins marrying female cousins; dragon riders who defy the religious norms of the Septon priests sit on the Iron Throne for centuries. When they fall, well, let’s say it, it’s obvious, it couldn’t last, they had broken the fundamental taboo of humanity, incest, demonstrated by biological science for some centuries: we cannot mix similar chromosomes, monsters will be born.
And yet, monsters are still being born, even out of the incest already punished in the Greek tragedy. Professor Dahmer was not the sacred white bull given by Poseidon to Minos of Crete, and Mrs. Flynt was not Pasiphae. And Jeffrey as a child was a strange but kind. His father took him with him to dig up the corpses of raccoons and rats, to then dissect them, eviscerate them, embalm them in the basement which Mrs. Flynt actually found horrible and repulsive. But he was a chemistry professor, and he was teaching the sciences to his son, who seemed enchanted, hypnotized. The “monster” is the one who breaks every norm and rule and taboo: don’t kill! And kills; have mercy! And he has none. When Jeffrey becomes a teenager he is totally devoid of metacognition and conscience: he finds himself sexually attracted to gym young men, with statuesque torsos and toned thighs, but since he is incapable of emotional relationships he prefers them sleeping, and gradually dead on his bed .
Award-winning Ryan Murphy Productions
Ryan Murphy is today the most infallible showrunner, screenwriter, director in the world of TV series on Netflix; understood literally everything needed in the recipe of a perfect product: the choice of the subject (morbid, murky, disturbing, inexplicable), the casting (phenomenal actors put in perfect roles for them), directing, editing, cinematography, sound, score sonorous (in dahmer none other than Nick Cave!) who don’t waste, or miss, a single second of the 7-10 hours available in a season. His last two stable products, Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story And The Watcherwritten and directed with Ian Brennan, broke all historic world records for hours watched on Netflix.
In his case – there is no doubt – the coincidence between artistic mastery and audience marketing study is never wrong. The two productions are 2022, and if Dahmer is played by Evan Peters, who becomes the twin of the real Dahmer not only in appearance, but even in the vocal timbre, in the alcoholic and shy hesitations of the unaware serial killer, to play the perfect mummy of middle class New York family in The Watcher she’s a still astounding Naomi Watts, with her usual mix of ingenuity and determination.
The Watcher And dahmer they are forged on “true events” and this matrix is certainly a multiplier of morbid attraction. dahmer it has its own parable and its somewhat “moral” epilogue (Dahmer, who preyed on very young homosexual African Americans in a run-down neighborhood, is finally butchered with bolts by an African American while serving his endless life sentences); The Watcher no: that Watcher who sends threatening and distressing anonymous letters to people who buy and move into a nice house on Lake Erie, until they drive them crazy, has never been caught, and none of us will ever want to set foot in one home so coveted and burdened with bad vibrations.
We understand everything but we don’t explain anything
The Dahmer case exploded when his apartment (which exhaled the stench of putrefaction due to the collection of dismembered, boiled and refrigerated human parts, blood-soaked carpets and rugs, acetone cans crammed with pieces of corpses) was visited by the police, until then sensationally indulgent with Dahmer because he was so blond and Caucasian, called by the second victim who had managed to escape down the street and ask for help. It was 1991: Dahmer was 31 years old, and for a decade he had drugged and strangled the victims lured into the neighborhood dancing bar, masturbated and sodomized corpses, sliced and peeled them, keeping their entrails and vital organs in the fridge (in the list of paraphilias his is defined as “splanchnophilia”), occasionally nibbling a bite.
He committed his first murder when he was 18, in all he committed 17. He was caught, tried and sentenced to 957 years in prison, since there was no capital punishment in Wisconsin. A century of psychiatry and psychoanalysis explain the etiology of Jeffrey Dahmer’s monstrosity well. Several films and documentaries have been dedicated to him over the past 20 years. And certainly Ryan Murphy has not been afraid to challenge and triumph over all this filmography.
The boy Jeffrey shows us infinite compassion: poor little boy, his mother is crazy and leaves him when he is 18, taking away his favorite little brother to California; his father leaves him for two weeks in the deserted house before visiting him; that father who wrote an interesting book, right after his son’s conviction, in which with honesty (in my opinion: others accused him of shameful opportunism) wanted to make self-criticism about his lack of affection and his parental mistakes, to advise future parents well on the risks of the drift of the disamati. Jeffrey wants to dominate the body he likes, and understands that the best way is to drug him with Coca Cola first, and strangle him later. He wants to enter inside them, curl up in the mush and comfort himself for a few moments.
Having said that, having understood why one can become a serial killer, the abysmal philosophical question remains: how is this option possible for us humans? How is it possible to push our cruelty, strengthened by ideological and psychiatric justifications, beyond the limit? And here in the opening credits it is very important to see that many episodes were directed by Jennifer Lynch, David’s daughter, who as a girl wrote one of the first spin-offs of the first contemporary TV series for her father in 1990, Twin Peaks: The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer. Those were the imaginary confessions of an imaginary character caught in the maelstrom of Evil. Of Jeffrey Dahmer instead we have the recordings of his young lawyer, and some interviews given in prison to American televisions: do the words of serial killers explain anything to us? Do the words that Dahmer wrote to the judge about him help us to understand?
“It’s over now. Here it was never a question of trying to be freed. I never wanted freedom. Honestly, I wanted capital punishment for myself. Here it was about telling the world that I did what I did, but not for reasons of hatred. I have not hated anyone. I knew I was sick or evil or both. Now I think I was sick. The doctors told me about my disease, and now I feel at peace. I know how much harm I’ve caused… Thank God I can’t hurt anymore. I believe that only the Lord Jesus Christ can save me from my sins… I am not asking for extenuating circumstances».