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The limited series about serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer has become the biggest hit of Murphy’s prolific career, notching big streaming numbers week-to-week, including the No. 1 spot on Netflix, since its Sept. 21 release and was poised to cross 1 billion hours streamed over Halloween weekend, per Murphy. It was then threatened to be outseated by Murphy and Ian Brennan’s next limited series, The Watcher, a true-crime-inspired thriller starring Naomi Watts and Bobby Cannavale, which released Oct. 13.
But Dahmer — Monster also has received backlash from the victims’ families, some of whom accused Netflix and production of never reaching out to them, and has been criticized for exploiting trauma with the heavy focus on Dahmer’s horrifying behavior. Murphy had previously said that he and his team reached out to over 20 victims’ families and friends during their three and a half years of research and that “not a single person responded to us in that process.”
Speaking to Maureen Dowd for the profile that published over the weekend, Murphy said he took on Dahmer’s story in order to shed light on the racism and homophobia that defined the case because “it was the biggest thing I’ve ever seen that really sort of examines how easy it is to get away with things with the white privilege aspects.”
Adding, “What are the rules now? Should we never do a movie about a tyrant?”
He also disagreed with the streamer’s decision to remove its LGBTQ tag from the show after some viewers complained.
“I also don’t think that all gay stories have to be happy stories,” he said. “There was a moment on Netflix where they removed the LGBTQ tag from Dahmer, and I didn’t like it, and I asked why they did that, and they said because people were upset because it was an upsetting story. I was, like, ‘Well, yeah.’ But it was a story of a gay man and, more importantly, his gay victims.”
He cited 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 an hour he’s most proud of: “There’s a five-minute scene of three gay deaf men at a pizza parlor talking in sign language about dating, gay life and how hard is it for them. I could not believe that I was getting the gift of putting it on television.” (Shirley Hughes, the mother of Tony Hughes, said the series dramatized her son’s story.)
In the piece, Murphy makes no mention of his plans for when his contract with the streaming giant is up in five months. Will he remain at Netflix, where he’s now delivered the second-biggest hit in the streamer’s history with Dahmer, or will he return to FX and parent company Disney?
Ted Sarandos, Netflix co-CEO, noted to Dowd that he brought Murphy on for the mega $300 million producing deal in the first place because there are “very few people capable of doing what he ultimately did at Netflix,” citing Dahmer now being a global hit.
“Everyone knew about Versace. Everybody knew about O.J.,” said Sarandos, referencing Murphy’s American Crime Story hits for FX. “Everybody knows about Jeffrey Dahmer and yet he takes these stories that are so familiar and makes them completely fresh.”
Despite what’s characterized in the article as a “patchy initial run” at Netflix with The Politician, Hollywood and The Prom, Sarandos added, “I don’t think it’s possible, not just for Ryan but for anyone, to achieve the levels that they achieve without having a couple of misses under their belt while they figure out ‘How do I adapt my storytelling to this platform? How do I connect it with this audience?'”
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