Serial killers are a touchy subject with me. On one hand, the pathology is fascinating – what drives a person to commit ritualistic, compulsive murder? What shapes a person to be this, and could it have been prevented? On the other hand, staring into that abyss proves a difficult task, because we can a.) see some of ourselves in there, and b.) it’s easier by far to look at the monster and know it’s a monster rather than a human being. The combination of those factors makes these evil beings – and make no mistake, people like Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy are pure fucking evil – more human and, therefore, a source of potential pity, which we often don’t want to give because that trivializes the pain and suffering they’ve inflicted. We don’t want them to be human; we want them to be locked up, yet we’re fascinated, some to the point of deranged fandom worship that transcends taste and common decency. We want to control our bogeymen, keep them in cages where they can’t hurt us, where we can study them safely so that no one else has to be carved up and eaten. It’s the loss of humanity when someone kills that strips them of this social convention of knowing the whole person.
It’s this conflict in my mind that caused some unrest when I first heard that the graphic novel My Friend Dahmer was being made into a film. There’s concern that it’s going to be a quick buck to profit off of some acts of depravity that left so many young men tortured and killed. On the other hand, Dahmer actively participated in his own psychological studies in a way that other killers did not; there was a quest to gain knowledge there. Former high school friend Derf Backderf wrote the graphic novel in a fashion that was unapologetic for the actions of a murderer, yet honestly presented a young man struggling with abandonment and mental health issues. Nothing was glorified; it was a truly objective portrait. And now it’s a movie. Here’s the trailer.
I think director Marc Meyers has crafted something here that is going to do the source material justice. Ross Lynch looks perfect for the role, and Anne Heche’s performance as Dahmer’s mother is getting some buzz. It looks to be both artful and honest, which is a difficult balance to strike. We may still have misgivings about the actions of this man, but I think we’re going to be afforded the ability to look objectively at the circumstances of this man’s life and allow ourselves to learn something without demeaning the memory of anyone who died.
And because we all remember the name of the killer and not the victims so often in these stories, here they are: Steven Hicks. Steven Tuomi. James Doxtator. Richard Guerrero. Anthony Sears. Raymond Smith. Edward Smith. Ernest Miller. David Thomas. Curtis Straughter. Errol Lindsey. Tony Hughes. Konerak Sinthasomphone. Matt Turner. Jeremiah Weinberger. Oliver Lacy. Joseph Bradehoft. I am so sorry for what happened to you.