Dahmer

“Jeffrey, please stop having your friends over for dinner. They’re tasteless.”

Last night I completed the Netflix series Dahmer. It was worth the watch.
I will watch anything that Ryan Murphy is part of. The casting of the phenomenal Evan Murphy of American Horror Story fame was spot on. He nailed the character. It was a nuanced performance, if not a factually flawed interpretation of a story that gripped and horrified a nation, and possibly the world from the day of his arrest to his violent demise several years later. I am unfazed by the inconsistencies, someone who knows the case as well as I will naturally catch it, most would not. And at the end of the day hey, it’s Netflix, not Ken Burns, it’s to be expected.

I suppose that I may as well get it out there, not unlike a staggering amount of people nationwide, I am an avid fan of anything to do with Serial Killers.

I was pleased to see this morning that it was the # 1 rated show on Netflix. I was also not surprised to see that Fox News ran a sequence on the controversy surrounding its popularity. I was expecting this. Whenever a dramatization or documentary about Bundy, Gacy, Kemper, etc., is released, and Netflix is guilty of a lot of content recently, it always generates a visceral reaction. The same questions/dilemmas are always posed,

Are we glorifying the killer?

Are we being unfair to the families of the victims?

And is it appropriate to continue making such content as opposed to letting the lore die a much-deserved rest?

All I can say is that yes, sometimes the Killers are painted in a sympathetic light. That can be merely a matter of perspective or in some cases a fact. In the case of Dahmer, I do not believe that he was painted as a sympathetic figure. I found him quite repulsive and very ill. Yet as a human being and a student of behavior the backstory that caused the man to perform the truly unspeakable acts that he committed is fascinating and from a research perspective invaluable. That is the appeal of Serial killers…what made them do it? Is it any different than questioning how Hitler was able to get an entire country to sit and watch as he extinguished millions of lives? It’s not the gore, it’s the why. So if you think it’s wrong on many levels then ask yourself is it as wrong as the people who send fan letters to these animals, offering their undying support and devotion? There are WAY more of those people than any decent person wants to think about.

It can also be argued that it is unfair to the families of the victims. I can only imagine that they don’t appreciate the rehashing of the most heartbreaking event of their lives. But let’s not pretend that they’ve forgotten it only to be reminded when Netflix releases a special. To its credit, the series did a respectable job of portraying the victims in a tragic light. In fact, almost half of one episode was dedicated to just one of the 17 victims, a very nice, bright young man with a promising future. His death was an absolute tragedy, as were the rest. His family was also discussed at length and the result was to tastefully illustrate how senseless and horrific the taking of his, and the others, lives really was. By delving into the families, it powerfully drove home the magnitude of their loss. Much consideration was given to the profound and devastating effect that Dahmer had on their futures. I think everyone, myself included, needed to see that. These were not just numbers, they were people.

As for the appropriateness of making such content…it will never go away. People want to see it. People want to know the Why’s, the How’s, and the Who. It is our nature to be curious. I can only speak for myself, but I’m not fascinated because I am an aspiring serial killer. I watch it because I don’t get it and I want to.

I’m sure that the motivations vary but I do know that we are fascinated by monsters. All serial killers are monsters and Dahmer was one of the worst. It was Scooby Doo that taught us that in the end, the real monsters are people.

Midnight Mass

I have a lot of down time. I’m still encouraged by my Doctors to take it easy and I do what I’m told because I still have days when the pain is formidable. My abdomen, now stuffed with 2 kidneys, is packed so tightly that any type of digestion issue will cause tremendous pressure on the new kidney and consequently the incision. I’ve cut way back on how much I eat to avoid the discomfort. And I rest quite a bit. I find myself watching quite a bit of Television because my eyes fatigue easily from reading. Fearful of becoming a couch potato, I at least try to watch something educational or at the very least something different.

Netflix hates me. I scroll through hundreds of shows and movies and some days nothing interests me. Netflix eventually prompts me with their new feature “play something”, which is their nice way of saying,”Jesus, asshole just fucking pick something will ya?” It’s not my fault, I’m just sick of the same old crap. Often I come across something and I will save it for later because maybe it’s too heavy for my current mood but I want to come back to it. That is how I discovered such gems as The Haunting of Hill House, The Haunting of Bly Manor, and most recently Midnight Mass.

I watch a lot of documentaries but Horror, well that’s my jam. Especially well thought-out and preferably Gothic horror/romances have always been my favorite. I have been reading Ghost stories since I was 7 years old. I read the original Bram Stoker’s Dracula when I was 12. Stephen King was a staple, many late night was spent under the covers, too afraid to look around my room. Especially after I read Salem’s Lot. That shit could happen.

As an adult I am a picky horror enthusiast. I don’t mind jump scares but I don’t care for Slasher flicks and “what would you do?” movies. I like a story. Give me a ghost story about tortured souls trapped in a house any day. But every once in a while I indulge in shows about religion. They connect with my ever-cynical approach to religion and spirituality and I almost always take away something from a well crafted story about God, fallen angels, Demons, etc.,.

Enter the Netflix series Midnight Mass. The series description was a little vague for me but I was intrigued enough to put it in my “to be viewed later” list. One day I was in the mood for something different and I gave it a try. I was immediately hooked and 8 episodes later I can honestly say that is one of the best, though-provoking shows that I have ever seen.

The show centers on a small island community. This is a common theme, at least in New England (my home), the isolation and despair of a people largely cut off from the mainland. Comprised of mostly fishermen, the island is dingy and run down, the people are discouraged and beaten down and keenly aware that their island is dying around them. The population is dwindling, the fish are drying up and there is little hope for a better life. There is but one church on the island and the story begins with the knowledge that their longtime Priest, Monsignor Pruitt, was on the mainland at a rehab facility for priests in their dotage. His replacement, Father Paul Hill, played by Hamish Linkletter, arrives to replace him and immediately strange things begin to occur on the island. Linkletter is not my favorite actor, I couldn’t stand his snarky character as the younger brother on that awful show the new adventures of Old Christine. But he was brilliant in Midnight Mass. The other newcomer is Riley Flynn, a young man who returned to the island after a prison stint for killing a woman in a drunk driving accident. With no place to go, he begins life anew on the island.

The catch? Father Hill is actually Monsignor Pruitt, his youth having been restored by an angel (or vampire) that he encountered while on a visit to the Holy Land. As Father Hill (Monsignor Pruitt 40 years younger) integrates himself into the community, he spreads the blood of the Angel through Communion wine and Miracles begin to occur. A handicapped girl suddenly walks. A woman with Dementia suddenly heals and appears decades younger. People with glasses suddenly don’t need them anymore. Desperate for something positive, this causes a religious revival in town and as people often do, shit gets out of hand.

Father Hill’s secret gets out. The town is caught up in a full-blown fervor. The believers in town go all in on the Revival only to find that Father Hill/Monsignor Pruitt will soon push the envelope and he introduces the Angel that changed him. The nude, winged angel is a blood sucker (vampire?) that renders his victims bloodless and dead, only to return to life moments later. Much is made of the transition, people claimed that they could see beauty and detail in the cosmos that they never could before. They entered a whole new realm of existence. The only catch is that they now need human blood to exist. Nobody on the island will be spared once they start hunting. Here is where it shifts from a profound meditation on life, despair, death, religion and faith to genuine horror. I will not ruin the ending for you. You must see it for yourself.

Midnight Mass is a brilliant mix of Horror and Religion. Faith, as well as the crises of faith, are showcased and thoroughly dissected. Despair and hope, or the lack of are consistent themes. Crises of faith and the urge to rationalize bizarre occurrences are spotlighted. The enigma of small town life is carefully detailed in all of its gossipy and provincial aspects. Even Islam is discussed in a fairly sympathetic manner through the eyes of the Island’s new Muslim Sheriff, who moved to the island to get away from his past. And of course, on full display throughout the series is the element of human behavior, in this case the response to miracles and the hysteria that followed that can only be caused by mob rule.

I’ve told you enough. It’s on Netflix, give it a watch. Tell them Billy Mac sent you.