Monster Movie: Is It Possible to Sympathize with Gay Serial Killer Jeffrey Dahmer? an Intelligent New Film Tries

By Stuart, Jan | The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), July 9, 2002 | Go to article overview

Monster Movie: Is It Possible to Sympathize with Gay Serial Killer Jeffrey Dahmer? an Intelligent New Film Tries


Stuart, Jan, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)


Dahmer * Written and directed by David Jacobson * Starring Jeremy Rennet, Bruce Davison, and Artel Kayaru * Peninsula Films

My friend was very quiet as we walked out of Murder by Numbers. When I asked him what he thought of the picture, he launched into a tirade about "all these movies with implied or overt gay sociopaths." My comeback--that the simmering undercurrent of homoerotic tension was the most interesting part of the film; the screenwriter had worked overtime not to make the killers another queer Leopold and Loeb--was quickly scuttled as we overheard two gay men who had also just seen the picture bitching over the same thing.

As we emulate the paranoia of every other beleaguered minority in this country (another friend once told me she refused to see Sergio Leone's marvelous Once Upon a Time in America because it showed Jews as gangsters), we seem to be locking down into a posture of hair-trigger defensiveness over public image. Give us gay, Mr. Producer, but be sure it's positive-role-model gay. Or victimized gay. Spare us the Versace killer movies and the Leopold and Loeb spin-offs for another day, when we're not so oppressed.

Some think queer folk will come of age with gay marriage. I personally think we will have arrived when we can handle gay murderers.

There are those who will refuse to see Dahmer, David Jacobson's dramatized portrayal of Jeffrey Dahmer, the Milwaukee man who murdered and dismembered some 17 men and boys, because it's not good for the gays. Then there are the violence-shy, myself included, who would be resistant to the exploitation potential inherent in the story of a serial killer who also indulged in necrophilia and cannibalism.

There is a little drill-and-saw action in the partly fictionalized Dahmer, which otherwise devotes itself to the psychosexual dynamic between the killer (played with an aptly invisible allure by Jeremy Renner) and his victims. …

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