A preoccupation with mass murderers and the people they kill is nothing new for pop culture. Audiences have always been enraptured by violent true crime stories. Still, with the launch of Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story on Netflix this year, it feels like a new era of unrepentant bloody rubbernecking began.
Dahmer (we’ll drop the rest of the tortuous title for now) was a mind-blowing true crime hit for Netflix. The 10-episode series that chronicled the saga of the Milwaukee Cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer broke all sorts of record for Netflix en route to becoming its second most popular season of English language television yet (per Netflix itself). The streamer also boasts that the Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan-created, Evan Peters-starring series is on track to reach 1 billion hours of viewings in the coming weeks. So yeah…it was a big deal.
The success of Dahmer raises all sorts of uncomfortable questions about streaming audiences and the kind of arguably exploitative content we’re willing to tolerate in the name of entertainment. The headlines that emerged about Murphy’s, let’s say, sloppy process of reaching out to Dahmer’s victims contributes some discomfort as well. For all the negative press that Dahmer occasionally generated, however, numbers are numbers. There was no way that Netflix could turn up the opportunity for more. And more will soon arrive.
Netflix announced today that it was renewing both of its two recent Ryan Murphy-helmed true crime hits, Dahmer and The Watcher, for fresh seasons. The Watcher has been confirmed for only season 2 as of now. Dahmer, under the banner of Monster*, will continue on as an anthology series and receive at least two more seasons.
*Note: This is a little confusing because Netflix released an actual film called Monster in 2021, but presumably future seasons of the Dahmer- Monster will receive similar KILLER NAME – Monster titles.
With at least two more installments of Monster on the way to bring serial killer stories to life, we thought it might be time to imagine what true crime figures the show might tackle. Because reasonable concerns about good taste aside, we find the darkness as alluring as anyone. Here are some serial killer tales we hope Monster (respectfully) approaches in future seasons.
John Wayne Gacy
As far as “media friendly” serial killers go, the most popular is undoubtedly the Unholy Trinity of Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, and John Wayne Gacy. Netflix has already attempted scripted content surrounding Dahmer and Bundy (the Zac Efron-starring Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile) so that leaves only Gacy left.
John Wayne Gacy Jr. was a politically-connected painter and businessman who killed at least 33 boys and young men from and buried at 26 of them in the crawl space of his Illinois home. A larger-than-life figure (and also physically imposing), Gacy is remembered for the particularly cinematic details of his story like the fact that he would occasionally perform at charitable events as “Pogo the Clown,” giving him the moniker the “Killer Clown.”
Dennis Rader, also known as BTK (Bind, Torture, Kill) is just the absolute worst. As evidenced by his the charming nom de plum her chose for himself, Rader was something of a serial killer fanboy – exhaustingly preoccupied with his place in true crime history. He killed 10 people in the Wichita, Kansas area between 1974 and 1991, all the while sending taunting letters to the police.
Thankfully, after briefly resuming the letter sending in the early 2000s, Rader was eventually caught due to some hilarious incompetence. Another Netflix series, Mindhunter, appeared to be setting up Rader is its “Big Bad” over its two seasons. With Mindhunter tragically canceled, Netflix might be inclined to do the BTK story properly. If nothing else, that would be the casting opportunity of a lifetime for balding white male actors with goatees.
If the Dahmer discourse wasn’t unbearable enough, just wait until some corners of the internet cast accusations of “woke” at the show for depicting the most prominent female serial killer. Belle Gunness, nicknamed “Helle’s Belle,” is an underrated heavy hitter as far as serial killers go.
The Norwegian-born American butcher killed at least 14 people (and maybe as many as 40) by luring men into her Indiana home with promises of marriage and then slaughtering them. Given that Gunness operated at the turn of the 20th century, there are many questions surrounding her case (including when she even died) and if Monster wants a blanker slate than Dahmer to operate with, Belle is a solid choice.
In the pop cultural perception of serial killers, there can sometimes be a gulf between how prolific a killer was and how famous they came to be. While figures like Dahmer, Gacy, and Bundy killed “only 15-35” people each, they all have qualities that made them stick out in the public eye more than their even more violent peers. If Monster really wants to find monsters then it might as well go straight to the top of the record book.
Discovered and arrested only 10 years ago, Samuel Little is now believed to be most prolific serial killer in American history, having confessed to killing 93 women between 1970-2005. No one can claim a number of murder victims that high without the help of some institutional incompetence and there is plenty of that in Sam Little’s story. A season called Little – Monster (OK, maybe the title formatting would need changing in this case) could delve into the flaws of the criminal justice system as much as it could delve into the central killer himself.
Not a Serial Killer
Hear us out on this one. In Netflix’s announcement of two new Monster seasons, it mentions that “future installments of Monster will tell the stories of other monstrous figures who have impacted society.” While it’s certainly natural to assume that those monstrous figures will be serial killers since season 1 covered Dahmer, that statement doesn’t specifically name “serial killers” but rather “monstrous figures.”
It’s likely that future Monster installments will still cover serial killers as that’s where the public’s interest lies at the moment but the show at least appears to be keeping its options open. Imagine any of the following seasons: Ailes – Monster, Kissinger – Monster, or bin Laden – Monster.