Dahmer: How Netflix Masterfully Used Negative Press To Skyrocket Viewership


The NetFlix mega-hit series “Dahmer” has taken the internet by storm over the last few months, driving the show to the #1 spot week after week. However, the success of the show is attributed to far more than just NetFlix promotion. With a plethora of serial killer documentaries and shows (including documentaries of Jeffrey Dahmer) on Netflix, how did this one explode the way that it did? The answer is deep-rooted in something that seems sinister and predatory, but is exactly what the world wants.

About The Show: Dahmer

The NetFlix show is a 10 episode series about the infamous serial killer: Jeffrey Dahmer. The series dives into the beginning of Dahmer’s troubled life, all the way to his death in 1994. If you are unfamiliar with Jeffrey Dahmer, then I’d highly suggest you read the WIKI on who he was and what he did. In a nutshell, he was a mentally-deranged sex offender and serial killer who drugged and murdered 17 innocent victims. The part that everyone remembers about Dahmer, was what he did after he murdered them. Dahmer was a cannibal, and often ate pieces of his victims, as well as keeping various body parts to remember his victims by. After being caught by police and sentenced to 16 consecutive life sentences (or 941 years), he was murdered in prison shortly thereafter.


Dahmer’s Disturbing Reviews and Social Media Presence

Just like most people, I started scrolling through my social media one night and started noticing people re-sharing posts from meme pages about how disturbing the show was, and how Evan Peters (the actor who plays Jeffrey Dahmer) should go to therapy for how crazy playing the role of the cannibal serial killer really was. Without ever seeing the show (or really having an interest in seeing it), I was kind of curious as to how twisted this series really was. Over the next few weeks, I continually saw more and more news articles and commentary about how controversial the show was, and how insanely realistic Evan Peter’s take on Jeffrey Dahmer was. As I began to search the reviews, all I found were primarily negative reviews about the show in regards to how twisted, demented, and sick the Dahmer series was, and how people shouldn’t watch it. Sure enough, my curiosity got the best of me, and I just had to see what this abomination of a show was all about. That night, I logged into my NetFlix account and hit the play button.


My Personal Take on The Series

As someone who knows about Jeffrey Dahmer and what he did prior to this series releasing, I already had a background as to what the show had in store for me. Historically, the show was very accurate as to the details, the victims, the people, the situations and the background behind the Jeffrey Dahmer biography. The directors of the show did a brilliant job portraying the potential reasonings behind how and why he ended up being the twisted individual he came to be. More so, the directors were amazing at creating the tension and horror involved with Dahmer initially meeting a victim, luring them, and ultimately killing them. As a viewer, when you stand back and look at the series as an entirety, it is very crazy to think that these things really happened, and that people like this do exist in the world. Which is why the world can be a very, very scary place.


The Reviews VS. The Reality

After completing the series, I had to re-address the reviews that I had initially seen once again. Coming from someone who was familiar with Jeffrey Dahmer biographies prior to watching this show, I will say that the reviews of how sick and twisted the show was, and how people shouldn’t watch it are factually inaccurate. If you’ve seen the show, there is evidence of horrible things that have happened to people (heads in the refrigerator, etc.) that lead you to kind of make-up in your mind what he actually did to his victims. The scenes depicting him internally fighting himself not to kill certain victims are filled with tension and an extremely uneasy vibe. However, the series shows an extremely small fraction of what Jeffrey Dahmer actually did to his victims. If the show could legally show what he did to his victims in detail, the directors would probably having crowds of people in their front yard rioting. The show’s actual content is nothing crazier than what you’d see in a movie like Hellraiser, Predator, Friday the 13th, or any other famous horror movie. The disgusting and demented aspect of the show is that of what they did show, those things really happened to real people. However, with a variety of other similar shows (and other Jeffrey Dahmer documentaries) on Netflix, how was this one so controversial?


Negative Press and Negative Mindsets

A few days later, I was sitting there talking to someone about the show (who also watched it recently), when it hit me. I was totally a victim of a negative marketing campaign. If you really break it down, I had absolutely no interest in seeing it, until I saw release after release of negativity and controversy surrounding the show, and I just couldn’t help myself from opening that door. Just like me, my friend who watched the show did it for the same reasons as I did: the negative hype. We live in an age where something ‘normal’ isn’t good enough to be virally sellable. To be virally sellable, it has to be outrageous. For example, look at the major issues that people talk about that the media (news companies) promote. They are rarely pushing positive stories, as those stories are going to kill ratings. To boost ratings, you need insane stories. You need articles with headlines like “This politician wants to poison your drinking water”, “Jeffrey Epstein Commits Suicide After Sexually Abusing Minors” or “Active Shooter In (insert place)”. If you look up popular articles and headlines, these types of articles bring in the most attraction. In today’s world, no one cares if someone does something great, everyone wants to see the twisted. The shocking and most insanely disturbing things are what people really want to see, and the news proves that.


How NetFlix Used Negative Press to Drive Dahmer

Believe me when I tell you, NetFlix are no dummies. They are media masterminds. Anyone working in marketing and advertising media knows that people love the crazy things. If this wasn’t the case, 56 million households wouldn’t have watched all 10 episodes of Dahmer on Netflix over the last few months. If you look up the current top 15 most-watched shows on Netflix (of all time), you’ll see almost every show is about killing people, robbery and other-worldly things like Satan. NetFlix’s marketing team obviously did some research, and discovered that creating purposeful negativity and controversy around a show for being so heinous and disturbing that people shouldn’t watch it, that in fact, exponentially more people than usual will watch it. As companies like NetFlix are beginning to understand people more and more, they will adapt to what people want to see. From the success of Dahmer, it appears as if the ‘reviews’ portraying the show as an ‘abomination’ and ‘absolutely disgusting’ by major news companies, are exactly the things that put people over-the-edge to commit to sitting down and watching a show. As time goes on, be weary of negative press tactics to actually drive more consumer activity to a product or service than if there were positive reviews.



We do not condone violence or assault of any kind. We are not glorifying a serial killer or overlooking the victims of Jeffrey Dahmer by writing this analysis. Our hearts go out to the friends and families of all of those affected by the actions of Jeffrey Dahmer.


Additional Resources:

Why Netflix’s Jeffrey Dahmer series is receiving so much backlash
Jeffrey Dahmer’s dad considers suing Netflix for glamorizing son’s murders
Dahmer’ Earns Big Debut in U.S. Streaming Rankings


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