My Friend Dahmer
The following is my comment to another blogpost. I think we’re going to be seeing a lot of these in the future, because I find it easier to play off of what others have on their minds, within the heading of serial murder, rather than trying to pull my subject matter out of whole cloth. A bit of a case, also, of giving the people what they claim to want.
I experienced the graphic novel online, years ago it seems, possibly in its entirety, and to me it’s rather old news to just now be talking about it in 2012. Whatever the author/illustrator’s intentions, I think that Dahmer came off as extremely sympathetic. Of course, I know too well how books can so often be Rorschachs into a reviewer’s psyche, such that the review will tend to say more about the reviewer than the book itself.
It was very much a work that encouraged the viewer to draw their own conclusions. If you were predisposed toward sympathy, there was no attempt to beat you over the head with another point of view. The illustrations showed what it looked like at the time, the dialogue showed what was said.
I would say that the book is a must for anyone who wants to get as complete a picture as possible into the development of a deviant mind. I have always been frustrated at how *little* attention is typically paid to a killer’s growing-up years. For lack of a better source, one typically turns to True Crime, where practically every criminal who ever lived was a murderer, serial way out of proportion, and where you’re generally treated to maybe a few broad strokes with regard to the formative years before it’s on to the “good” stuff.
Particularly lacking has been any coverage of the hot house societal years of junior and high school days, the specific area where My Friend Dahmer shines. This is the area where the card-carrying Member of Society in good standing has his big chance to convict himself as co-conspirator in a murderer’s crimes rather than flippantly put it on Mommy and Daddy if not squarely on the murderer’s shoulders, and unsurprisingly there are very few authors who are up to this task– but I found that Dahmer’s friend was. Cartoonist John Backderf was a player in the drama as much as anyone in Jeffrey’s orbit, and at the risk of interpreting another inkspot, I would suggest that Backderf may have been the less sympathetic of the story’s Big Two.
But that’s alright– all is forgiven. Because he manned up and told the truth.
Off the record, I’ve read a bit of Backderf talking about his book, and he doesn’t exactly man up to having manned up, but reading between the two covers, I was distinctly under the impression that he did.
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