Dahmer - Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story continues to be the top show on Netflix but the streaming platform has just released a new documentary series on the infamous serial killer, Conversations with a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes.
What sets Academy Award-winner Joe Berlinger’s three-part docuseries apart is that it hinges on 32 hours of recorded conversations Dahmer had with attorney Wendy Patrickus from July to October 1991, to prepare for his defence. As the documentary states, the tapes have never been publicly released, until now.
Patrickus was just a young lawyer in her 20s at the time. She had just moved to Milwaukee, lived alone and didn’t have many local friends. She got a call from her boss, Gerry Boyle, who said they have a new case and he needed her to go to the police administration building to talk to someone he had represented in the past, describing Dahmer has a “nice man.” Patrickus remembers Boyle saying, “don’t worry he won’t bite your head off.”
“I felt like Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs,” Patrickus says in Conversations with a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes. “He was very polite, I was somewhat surprised, I guess, at how cordial Jeff was.”
She added that she knew the importance of building trust with him and not being judgemental in order to be “a good defence attorney.”
“It’s not easy to talk about,” Dahmer says in an early recording we hear in the docuseries. “It’s something that I’ve kept buried within myself for many years.”
“I had wondered why I was compelled to do all the murders. What I was searching for that would fill the emptiness that I felt. The murdering someone and disposing of them right away gives no great lasting pleasure or a feeling of fulfillment, and yet I still felt the compulsion to do it throughout these years.”
Kenneth Mueller, a former lieutenant with the homicide division at Milwaukee P.D., states in the series that the way Dahmer is able to recall every detail of his murders is “incredible.”
“I didn’t seem to have the normal feelings of empathy,” we hear from the Dahmer recordings. “It started with fantasies, fantasizing, it always started with fantasizing, and then eventually it seemed the fantasies came to be.”
“If there’s any area that is to really blame, it’s my own twisted thinking. I haven’t been thinking normally for years.”
The first of Dahmer's murders was 18-year-old Steven Hicks in 1978, who was hitchhiking to a rock concert when the serial killer saw him.
"It was the first time, I did have the desire to control," we hear Dahmer say in his taped conversations with Patrickus. "I don't know exactly why I hit him, except I wanted to stay with him longer."
"I thought how amazing it was that I was actually doing it to another human being. It shocked me that I got to that point, and that was a feeling of excitement, control, but mingled with a lot of fear."
Fascination with Jeffrey Dahmer draws strong pushback
From the moment Ryan Murphy’s Dahmer - Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer landed on Netflix, with Evan Peters playing Jeffrey Dahmer, it has received extensive attention and some, admittedly, odd responses.
there is a whole trend of white women on tiktok flexing how they were so “unbothered” and “unfazed” by the dahmer series on netflix. if you find the depiction heinous targeted murders of LGBT and black/brown people “not disturbing enough” then something is wrong with you pic.twitter.com/Jjv8Bg5gKL
— em 🍓 (@uhhmmily) September 30, 2022
the jokes abt jeffree dahmer one thing but once u start making strawberrys out of it to make profit out of it- feels like mock to the victims face in my opinion pic.twitter.com/SNs99aGV9W
— jackie ❥ (@trxgicshit) October 6, 2022
Patriarchy glorifies violent white men. Victims need to be centred in the re-telling of these crimes. This was brilliantly done recently by Hallie Rubenhold in her book The Five which makes Jack the Ripper a minimal character. Dahmer should not be turned into an icon! https://t.co/qsn6W2m4cq
— Chardine Taylor Stone (@ChardineTaylor) October 7, 2022
While we hear Dahmer try to understand why he had the desire to kill 17 men, Conversations with a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes takes you back to his childhood, often being neglected and left alone by his parents, his drinking, and transitioning to the particular dynamics of evading police as a white man preying on gay men of colour.
Wendy Patrickus also points out that it was a "struggle" for Dahmer to come out, recalling that he told her, "I don't like being gay."
"I really made a sincere effort to change the way I was living, to change my desires, to get rid of the homosexual feeling that I had," Dahmer says in the tapes.
Listening to the serial killer talk about his murders in his own words is absolutely terrifying, likely enough to cause some nightmares, particularly with how open and non-defensive he is about what he did.
The timing of Netflix’s release of Conversations with a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes really emphasizes our fascination and constant appetite for crime stories, for better or worse.