Dahmer Is Netflix’s Biggest Premiere Since Stranger Things Season 4
Less than a week after its release, Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story is Netflix’s biggest draw since Stranger Things season 4. The new limited series, which premiered on September 21, comes from American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy as part of his five-year deal with the popular streaming service. Evan Peters takes on the titular role of Dahmer in the most prolific on-screen representation of the cannibalistic serial killer since Ross Lynch in 2017’s My Friend Dahmer.
Unlike the Lynch-led film, which primarily follows Dahmer’s life in high school before his killing spree, Monster covers the Milwaukee native’s origins up to his eventual death inside the Columbia Correctional Institution. The Netflix limited series does differentiate itself from similar projects, however, by paying particular attention to Dahmer’s victims and their families, attempting to humanize them instead of romanticizing the villain. Still, Peters’ portrayal of Dahmer and Monster’s graphic dramatizations of his murders are the most appealing factors for true crime fans interested in the show.
Over the past week, audiences flocked to the miniseries, leading to Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story becoming Netflix’s most successful premiere since Stranger Things season 4 in May. Deadline reports that 196.2 million people tuned into the show, which makes it the fifth most-watched series premiere since Netflix’s viewership data remodeling last June. Only Squid Game, All of Us Are Dead, Stranger Things season 4, and Bridgerton season 2 drew more viewers in that timeframe.
The viewership numbers for Monster are both surprising and not. Peters is a massively popular TV star with undeniable talent, so watching him embody such an infamous figure is intriguing. At the same time, while true crime is a phenomenon for Netflix, initial expectations did not see Monster breaking into the upper echelon of viewership on the platform next to Stranger Things and other big hits. Part of that hesitation involves the sheer number of Dahmer-related media already in existence, which calls into question Monster’s relevancy as a seemingly redundant interpretation of a mortifying time in American history that many would prefer to forget.
Living relatives of the families that Dahmer directly impacted during his active years have already reported feeling re-traumatized by the show’s portrayal of the gruesome murders. Monster’s success, therefore, is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the viewership will inspire Netflix to continue funding true crime projects thanks to continual interest. On the other, the moral implications of revisiting such heinous crimes are challenging to consider and can paint Netflix as exploitative of real tragedies. No matter which side of the fence feels right, Peters is gripping as Dahmer, and the series is undoubtedly well-put-together from a technical perspective. Time will tell what kind of legacy Monster leaves behind after the initial reactions and data cease to matter.