Being a serial killer is way easier than I thought.
Last night I decided to check out Netflix’s new series Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, and I’m completely outraged.
I’ve been lied to my whole life. Up until now, I’ve always thought being a serial killer was a tough gig. That you had to be some kind of mastermind in order to get away with murdering people. That it’s hard work, and involves obscene levels of manipulation, trickery, and craft to pull off.
As it turns out, you can be a total dithering idiot and get away with butchering people in your own neighborhood for a decade, without fear of getting caught.
This is a real eye-opener for me, as someone coming from the school of Silence of the Lambs. In that movie, Buffalo Bill is shown as a careful, calculating predator who prudently chooses his victims (young, naive women). In one scene he even uses a fake cast on his arm to garner sympathy. What a clever fellow.
Then you have Dr. Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter, a genius psychiatrist, who concocts perhaps the most brilliant prison break scheme in history.
You’ve got “John Doe” in Seven, an impassioned quasi-religious zealot, who engineers multiple murders across a city over several years, all while running a Frankenstein lab in his own apartment. Another super cerebral killer.
And of course you’ve got the fictional Jigsaw killer in the Saw franchise. A dude who designs elaborate deadly traps meant to teach people the meaning of life, or something. Also clearly a Mensa member.
Even made-up killers like Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Kruger — they’re all potrayed as mental giants, always sneakily evading capture, and cornering prey, sometimes right out in the open.
Damn, I thought, watching all those guys. Good luck to any average Joe who aspires to make their own skin suit or eat fresh human liver. They’ll have their work cut out for them.
It’s the media’s fault for sensationalizing the career of serial killer, of course. They did the same thing for cops, computer hackers, and the whole concept of “true love.”
In reality, being a serial killer is much more down to earth. You don’t have to even be that smart. You just need a little gumption, and most importantly, to believe in yourself.
Monster proved that to me in only two episodes last night. Here are six dark, distrubing things I learned:
1.) You Don’t Need a House to be a Killer
Early in Silence of the Lambs, Clarice Starling makes the rather bold (though true) assumption that Buffalo Bill had to own a house because he’d need space to “skin his humps.” Yeah, maybe if you’re some elitist serial killer who can afford a house, Clarice. Jeffrey Dahmer murdered most of his victims in a shitty apartment in the ghetto. He didn’t let his lower socio-economic status get in the way of his dream of building a throne of human skulls. This is good news for Millennials (and Gen-Zers, too, I suppose) who can’t afford to buy a home, but who are still thinking of getting into the murder business. Especially in these times of rising interest rates.
2.) You Don’t Need “Game” to Attract Victims
Man, if there was ever anyone who obviously looked and acted like a serial killer, it was Jeffrey Dahmer. And yet, he was still able to get numerous young men and boys to come to his apartment alone, under the guise of “taking pictures” for money, or for romantic dalliances. In one scene he even gets an underage boy to follow him home with the promise of free cheap booze. That’s like one tiny step above painting “Free Candy” on the side of a creepy van and parking down by the elementary school.
Buffalo Bill was such a try-hard by comparison, with the cast trick and everything. He probably could have doubled his kill count if he’d just walked up to women and tried selling them Tupperware or magazine subscriptions.
3.) You Can Be a Slob All You Want
Imagine this. You’ve just freshly murdered someone. There’s blood on your mattress. A dead body on your bedroom floor. A distinct odor of decaying human flesh wafting throughout your apartment. And you’ve just put your victim’s decaptitated head in the fridge. You’d obviously want to clean that mess up as fast as possible so the neighbors don’t potentially complain about any foul odors in your apartment. Especially when you’ve got a vent that connects to the apartment next door. Right?
Actually, you’d be dead wrong. Don’t worry about that stench. Or the mess. Just make sure you have a story about how your relatives sent you meat, but it spoiled, and assure any nosy neighbors that you’ll take care of the smell A.S.A.P.
It’s even okay if cops come over to check out your apartment. Just ensure they can’t see the dead body from the doorway to your bedroom. Just tuck that body in close to the bed, right out of eye shot.
(That actually happens in the Netflix series, by the way.)
4.) Naked Underage Victim Escape Your Clutches? Don’t Sweat, Don’t Fret
Just play it cool, baby. Tell the cops it’s just a lover’s spat. He was drinking. He got a little rough, and he ran off. He does that all the time. You know how these darn kids are these days, amiright?
You can even throw in some pictures you took of your victim (err, lover) as proof of your relationship. You may have to invite the cops into your apartment, but that’s okay. They’ll buy the “spoiled meat” story just like the neighbors.
See, here’s the deal. The more horrific and grotesque your crimes, the less likely people are to believe that it’s happening right under their noses. People, even cops, would rather live in denial than accept that someone as evil and twisted as Dahmer could possibly exist, much less do all the things he did. It seems too farfetched and impossible. It’s like saying Bigfoot is real. Use that power of deniability to your advantage. Be Bigfoot in a world of Bigfoot Deniers.
5.) It’s Okay To Be An Alcoholic
Think you need to be some lean, clean, sober machine before embarking on a career as the neighborhood psycho? Nope. Dahmer, like any good Wisconsinite, was a heavy drinker, having started sneaking beers in class back in high school. So many fictional killers have spread the propaganda that you must live like a dry monk while exercising like an Olympic champion. Think of John Doe from Seven, or Max Cady from Cape Fear. Those guys were like ripped missionaries ready to spread the Word (and by Word, I mean horrific murders).
But the reality is far less glamorous and physically demanding. What matters isn’t your body so much, it’s your mind. And how determined you are to make a murderous difference in this world. Don’t let that sagging beer gut or those twig arms of yours hold you back from the hack and slash career you deserve. You do you, and get out there and give it all you got, champ.
6.) Racism Will Protect You
In the series, Dahmer’s next door neighboor, a nice black woman, is constantly ignored by police, even as she reports him for possibly kidnapping an underage boy. She even reports the horrible smells from Dahmer’s apartment to the landlord, but to no avail. And what do the police do? Basically tell her to shut the f*ck up and mind her own business. You’d think this was during the 1950s or something. But, no. Most of Dahmer’s murders happened in the good ol’ 80’s, when A Flock of Seagulls was rocking the hit charts, and Marty McFly was going Back to the Future. And also still a time when most police were loathe to give your typical black citizen a fair shake on anything.
Good thing we’ve improved so much since then. That hardly ever happens now, right?
And if you were a moderately handsome blue-eyed blonde-haired dude, you might as well have had ten get out of jail free cards stuffed in your backpocket. One cop even politely and concernedly asks Dahmer at one point what’s a guy like him doing in such a rough neighbohood. To which Dahmer responds, “It’s easier killing here. Oops, I mean, it’s cheap to live here.” After which he and the cop high five and chug a beer.
Okay, just kidding on that last point, but the cop hardly even gives Dahmer a look after his neighbor accuses him of literal pedophilia and kidnapping. Literally all the cops do is tell that nice black lady to shut the f*ck up. Insanity.
To be fair, racism could have potentially worked in favor of a serial killer who happened to be black. Given how poorly those ghetto neighborhoods were (and still are) policed, a black butcher could have had himself a heck of a career stacking bodies back in Dahmer’s day. So long as none of his victims were white, I suppose.
In all seriousness, it’s rather disturbing and upsetting to know that Dahmer flew under the radar for so long because police basically ignored or downplayed all the suspicious complaints made about him. Even more disturbing is that because nearly all of Dahmer’s victims were minorities and/or gay, their disappearances went unnoticed, or were largely deprioritized by the authorities.
The fact is, an evil monster like Dahmer was able to thrive for as long as he did because he killed in a glaring blindspot of society. A blindspot that gave him cover to kill people who were not considered “important” enough to care about. And in addition to Dahmer’s existence, that blindspot is itself just as evil and monstrous.