Netflix’s Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story
Ep. 4: “The Good Boy Box”
Directed by Jennifer Lynch
Written by Ian Brennan & Ryan Murphy
* For a recap & review of Ep. 3, click here.
* For a recap & review of Ep. 5, click here.
Bath, Ohio circa 1991. Remains are being found in Lional Dahmer’s backyard. They’ve found Steven Hicks’s remains. Jeffrey’s talking to detectives about why he scattered the bones around. He explains how he put the bones in the oven to “dry them out” before smashing them to powder. The detectives wonder why Jeffrey spread them all over the backyard. Jeffrey replies: “I think I just wanted him to still be around.” Like they could still be together somehow. A response like this, and how the cops are all crowded around outside the room to listen, illustrates how unique Dahmer and his crimes were to people. Jeffrey goes on to explain he was always this way, that nothing specific happened in his life to make him who he is today. He talks about the psychiatrist appointed by the police, Dr. Park Dietz, and their conversation concerning him being sexually aroused by the dissections and the organs. The detectives ask how and why Jeffrey waited 9 whole years after killing Hicks to kill again.
Dahmer simply replies: “I was trying to be a good boy.”
1978: the end of high school for Jeffrey. Kids at school started to notice that Jeffrey slipped into a photo for the National Honor Society; Doin a Dahmer yet again. But before the yearbooks were sent out the committee in charge cut Jeffrey out. (From what I understand, Dahmer slipped into a number of these year-end photos with various school groups; not positive he was actually cut out of them, especially considering a high school committee’s budget in ’78 couldn’t have been anything major.)
Back home, Jeffrey was sulking and scratching up his yearbook when Lionel arrived after who knows how long with his new wife Shari (Molly Ringwald). It blew Lionel’s mind to know that Jeffrey was left home by himself for months. At the same time, he clearly didn’t contact his son enough to know what was happening, just blaming it all on Joyce, as usual. And then there was Shari inserting herself into the whole relationship. A ticking family time bomb all around. Jeffrey started to believe he was a failure: “Why am I trying to pretend I‘m something I‘m not?” He tried to tell Lionel there was something wrong with him, and, in perpetuity, Lionel didn’t want to listen. All dad wanted to do was ignore things and concentrate on getting his son into Ohio State. Once more we see the rejection Jeffrey faced. Maybe if someone had listened, even once… maybe Jeffrey’s life would’ve turned out differently. We’ll never know.
Things at college didn’t go much differently. Jeffrey was drinking and not attending classes. His GPA was 0.45 and the Dean called Lionel in for a meeting. Jeffrey got expelled from college and Lionel decided right then it was time to go to the army. A year later, Jeffrey came back to Lionel and Shari in a uniform; very interesting to see Shari hug Jeffrey but then Lionel only accept a handshake, the continual distance between father and son all too evident. In the military, Jeffrey was learning lots of great things, like the uses of Halcion. He used the drug to start knocking out his fellow soldiers, giving him a bit of time alone with their near-lifeless bodies. Not something Jeffrey was talking to Lionel about at home during Christmastime, certainly.
Skip ahead to Lionel pissed at Jeffrey, after his son was discharged from the army. This was when Lionel took his son to live with grandma, a kind of last ditch effort to save Jeffrey. But it really just isolated Jeffrey more again, and it was a living arrangement that allowed him too much time to fall into that dark fantasy world again. Jeffrey was looking in his closet at grandma’s when he found an old box that used to belong to his dad. Inside were old photos of Lionel from boyhood and beyond. Jeffrey lamented not having any memories “to put in a box.” He called himself “a bad egg” with “a screw loose.” Grandma told him he should find a nice girl, and to stop drinking so much. She urged him to go back to church with her.
Jeffrey went looking for jobs and found one at a Polish shop making sausages and working with meats. A perfect place for a budding serial killer turned on by slicing into raw cuts. We go back to the scene when grandma wandered into her grandson’s room and saw the mannequin under the sheets. This made things quite awkward. Grandma questioned why Jeffrey had the mannequin and he absolutely lost it at her. She tossed it out. That means Jeffrey was going to need something, or someone, to replace it. The fallout left Jeffrey and his grandma’s relationship strained, too. He tried to tell her it wasn’t a gay thing, that he’d never “bring shame on the family” in such a way. More evidence to show how repressed Dahmer was and how deeply he buried himself internally.
Jeffrey certainly didn’t slow down on the drinking. He went to a fair one night, hammered drunk, and started to see the ghost of Steven. Then he started to masturbate with his pants around his ankles. This landed him in jail getting charged, which also got him fired from the Polish shop. He had to go looking for more work again. The problem was, his new charge for public masturbation wasn’t doing him any favours. Though he did land a job working at a blood plasma center in Milwaukee. The perfect job for a man with an increasing interest in cannibalism. One night, Jeffrey stole some bags of blood to take home with him. This actually comes from a genuine story Dr. Park Dietz related to the court when he was called as a witness. Apparently Dahmer told Dr. Dietz that while he worked at the plasma center he stole a bag of blood and tasted it, but didn’t enjoy the taste and spit it out. Here, we see Jeffrey trying out the blood while standing over his sink, letting the crimson spill over his chest.
Skip to 1987. Jeffrey went into Club 219 (an actual gay bar in Milwaukee at the time). He met a guy and spent the night drinking with him until the place closed down. After that they headed to a bathhouse where they could rent a room, complete with condoms, and head upstairs for some fun, after getting a look at all the naked dudes steaming and working out downstairs. He wanted to lay on the bed with his new friend and hold each other. It brought Jeffrey back to his time with the mannequin, his motionless lover, and to the murder of Steven. Eventually his friend had to leave for work. So Jeffrey had to figure out a new way to get men to stay with him there. That’s when Dahmer began to prey on other gay men in the clubs, taking them to the bathhouse where he’d drug them using Halcion.
But Jeffrey’s routine fucked up one of his ‘guests’ and it started to give him a reputation at the bathhouse. And that gave him a reputation at ALL the bathhouses in Milwaukee. Again, Jeffrey was disrupted and had to find a new way to do his thing, a new hunting ground. He kept going to the bars, he just couldn’t take his prey to the bathhouses anymore. Jeffrey picked up the next guy, Steven Tuomi, and went to the Ambassador Hotel this time. He drugged Steven’s drink and they partied together. After a while, he got a bit too messed up and eventually passed out.
When Jeffrey woke up he discovered he’d murdered Tuomi. In real life, Dahmer claims he never meant to kill Tuomi, he only meant to drug his victim and lay with his motionless body all night; Tuomi’s chest was caved in and Dahmer’s arms were bruised. Here we see Dahmer panic, as he did in real life, unable to understand how the murder occurred. He tried to give the dead Tuomi CPR but it obviously had no effect. And once more he was left with a corpse to dispose of, albeit in much more unfortunate, inconvenient circumstances than when he killed Steven Hicks.
Dahmer packed Tumoi into a suitcase, then he transported the corpse back to his grandma’s place after she’d left the house. He took the corpse into the basement. But then he had to find the right time to dismember the corpse for disposal. When grandma left for church, Jeffrey grabbed a butcher’s blade and got to work. He kept Tuomi’s head, wrapped it in plastic, and put it in the old box belonging to his father; making his own memories for the box. (In reality, the head was only wrapped in a blanket. Two weeks later, Dahmer boiled the head in Soilex and bleach, hoping to retain it. He did for a while, using it to masturbate, but eventually smashed it to bits because it became too brittle from the bleach.)