My Friend Dahmer
The unthinkable events that unfurled during Jeffrey Dahmer’s adult years cannot be explained solely by this movie, nor the graphic novel that inspired it.
It offers, however, an insight into how missing the building blocks for societal integration, predispositions and isolation can be a recipe for chaos.
‘It’s always the quiet ones’, my mother used to whisper to me throughout my childhood. That probably being why she was so disappointed that I was quiet too.
Watching My Friend Dahmer took me back to my youth. The misunderstanding, the isolation and the relief at finding a group to socialize with. Fortunately, things turned out more stable for me.
Dahmer’s parents play off as unsupportive, distracted, even violent towards each other. The father tries whenever possible to introduce his son to hobbies he believes might ‘normalize’ him. (In an interview with Dahmer and his father from prison years later, his father confesses that he often had the same dark thoughts as Dahmer, and wanted to protect him).
Dahmer himself seems to suffer from severe social anxiety, unable to relate to his classmates and finding his sexual attraction to men increasingly difficult to handle given the climate at the time. He’s bullied, goes home to tension between his family and retreats to his cabin to put more road-kill into bleach.
Having an interest in bones is not a prerequisite to becoming a murderer. Ask any archaeologist.
But what this grew into for Jeffrey Dahmer fires the same warning shots as we watch the multitudes of serial killers, school and church shooters rise — we need to care about the outcasts.
It’s not easy. It’s not inherently solvable. Animal societies by their very nature abandon the weak and different in order to sustain themselves.
However I think of my own upbringing. Alone, shy and withdrawn, my school years were filled with sadness and a need to belong. When I left school and started at college, I found people who taught me about acceptance, support and embracing my identity. I was lucky.
I often think back to these times and wonder what would have become of me if I hadn’t found a family in these people. It bears thinking about. And in many others I have spoken to, these same thoughts occur.
My Friend Dahmer is insightful and gut-wrenching, and as you sit in front of the TV shouting at the characters seemingly missing his decline, you realize how perfectly it mirrors real-life.
After all, it’s easy to spot the danger when you know how it ends.