Ryan Murphy Defends Dahmer: He asks in a New York Times profile, where he discusses his back-to-back hits ‘Dahmer — Monster’ and ‘The Watcher’ and insists that Netflix not remove its LGBTQ tag for either film.
Murphy’s serial killer thriller series about Jeffrey Dahmer has become his biggest success to date, boasting impressive streaming numbers since its Sept. 21 release and poised to surpass 1 billion hours streamed over Halloween weekend according to Murphy and Ian Brennan’s next limited series The Watcher (starring Naomi Watts and Bobby Cannavale), which premieres Oct. 13.
But Dahmer — Monster has also faced backlash from victims’ families, some of whom accused Netflix and production of never reaching out to them. Critics have accused Netflix and production of exploiting trauma with a focus on Dahmer’s horrific behavior. Murphy previously stated that he and his team reached out to over 20 families and friends during three and a half years of research – yet “not one person responded” during that process.
As Murphy explained to Maureen Dowd for her profile that was published over the weekend, he took on Dahmer’s case to shed light on racism and homophobia that were at play – “it was the biggest thing I’d ever seen that really examined how easy it is to get away with things due to white privilege aspects.”
“What are the rules now? Should we never make a movie about a tyrant?” she queried.
He expressed his displeasure with the streamer’s decision to remove its LGBTQ tag after some viewers voiced their opposition.
“I don’t believe all gay stories need to be happy ones,” he said. “For instance, when Netflix took away Dahmer’s LGBTQ tag a while back, I wasn’t satisfied; however, when asked why, they said because people had expressed distress over its upsetting content. At that moment I thought, ‘Well, yeah.’ However, this story involved both a gay man and his victims.”
He highlighted the sixth episode (“Silenced”), written by David McMillan and Janet Mock and directed by Paris Barclay, which focused on Dahmer victim Tony Hughes – a Black deaf man – as one of his proudest hours: “There’s this five-minute scene with three gay deaf men at a pizza parlor talking in sign language about dating, gay life and how hard it can be for them…I couldn’t believe I was getting to put it on television!” Shirley Hughes (mother of Tony Hughes) said this series dramatized her son’s story perfectly.
In his piece, Murphy makes no indication of his plans when his contract with Netflix ends in five months. Will he remain at Netflix, where his Dahmer film has become the second-biggest hit in their history, or return to FX and parent company Disney?
Ted Sarandos, Netflix co-CEO, told Dowd that he brought Murphy on for the $300 million producing deal initially because there are “very few people capable of doing what he ultimately achieved at Netflix,” with Dahmer now becoming a global success.
“Everyone knew about Versace. Everyone knew about O.J.,” Sarandos remarked about Murphy’s American Crime Story hits for FX. “And everyone knows Jeffrey Dahmer,” he continued, noting how these stories that are so familiar can be made completely fresh with Dahmer’s art.
Sarandos commented on Netflix’s “tumultuous initial run” with The Politician, Hollywood and The Prom: “I don’t believe anyone – not just Ryan nor anyone else – could reach those levels without having some missteps along the way while they figure out ‘How do I adapt my storytelling for this platform and connect it with this audience?'”