The series, starring Evan Peters as the titular serial killer who preyed on queer men, had the biggest debut ever on Netflix and was originally categorized as LGBTQ content on the streamer. However, the tag was removed two days after its September premiere due to social media backlash.
“I also don’t think that all gay stories have to be happy stories,” series creator Murphy told The New York Times. “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.”
Between 1978 and 1991, Dahmer killed 17 men, mostly targeting BIPOC queer males.
Murphy added that he was especially proud of handling racism and homophobia in the series, saying, “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. What are the rules now? Should we never do a movie about a tyrant?”
The Emmy winner cited Episode 6, which focuses on Dahmer victim Tony Hughes, a Black deaf man who was murdered in 1991. “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,” Murphy said. “I could not believe that I was getting the gift of putting it on television.”
However, the accuracy of the series has been called into question by journalists and multiple victims’ families, including Hughes’ mother Shirley Hughes. “It didn’t happen like that,” Hughes told The Guardian. “I don’t see how they can do that. I don’t see how they can use our names and put stuff out like that out there.”
Murphy later stated that production reached out to “around 20 of the victims’ families and friends trying to get input, trying to talk to people and not a single person responded to us in that process.”
The “American Horror Story” showrunner said, “It was just like a night and day effort to us trying to uncover the truth of these people.”