Jeffrey Dahmer Netflix backlash: what did victim Tony Hughes’ mother say about controversial series

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The murder of Anthony ‘Tony’ Hughes is depicted in the sixth episode of the controversial Netflix miniseries about the serial killer

Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Storyis the series that everyone has been talking about since it was released by Netflix on 22 September - and has quickly become one of the most controversial shows that the streaming platform has to offer. The 10 episode miniseries explores the life and crimes of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who murdered 17 young men and boys between 1978 and 1991.

Among those who have spoken out against the show is that of Shirley Hughes, the mother of Anthony ‘Tony’ Hughes, whose murder was depicted in the sixth episode titled “Silenced”. Tony was an aspiring male model who was deaf, and was 31 when he was killed.

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This is what you need to know about what Shirley Hughes has said about Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.

What has Shirley Hughes said about the Netflix series?

Hughes has spoken out against the new Netflix series, telling the Guardian that she cannot understand how the show could be made.

She said that she has not watched all of the episodes, but said that the murder of her son, 31 year old Tony Hughes, “didn’t happen like that”.

In a phone call to the publication, Hughes said: “I don’t see how they can do that”, before adding that it was difficult to talk about her son’s murder and ending the call.

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She said: “I don’t see how they can use our names and putting out that stuff out that like there.”

Anthony Hughes was Jeffrey Dahmer’s 12th victim (Pic:Twitter/IvCohen)Anthony Hughes was Jeffrey Dahmer’s 12th victim (Pic:Twitter/IvCohen)
Anthony Hughes was Jeffrey Dahmer’s 12th victim (Pic:Twitter/IvCohen) | Twitter/IvCohen

Hughes hasn’t publicly spoken much about Tony, however, after Dahmer was charged with the murders in 1992, she told United Press International about the relief she felt after finding out the truth behind her son’s disappearance.

At the time, she said: “It hurts. I shed tears. They’re not tears of sorrow, and it’s not disbelief in the Lord. The tears [are] tears of hurt because it hurts. It hurts real bad. But you have to trust and pray and just keep going day by day.”

In the controversial Netflix series, Hughes is portrayed by actress Karen Malina White, who viewers may recognise from the likes of Bruh, The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder and Lodge 49.

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What have the families of other victims said?

Hughes isn’t the only family member of one of Dahmer’s victims to have criticised the show.

Eric Perry, cousin of Errol Lindsey, who was murdered by Dahmer in 1991, wrote on Twitter that the show was “retraumatising” for families of the victims.

Quote tweeting a video that showed a side by side comparison of Rita Isbell, Lindsey’s sister, speaking out in court against Dahmer, Perry wrote: “I’m not telling anyone what to watch, I know true crime media is huge [right now], but if you’re actually curious about the victims, my family (the Isbell’s) are p**ed about this show.

“It’s retraumatizing over and over again, and for what? How many movies/shows/documentaries do we need?

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“Like recreating my cousin having an emotional breakdown in court in the face of the man who tortured and murdered her brother is WILD. WIIIIIIILD.”

In follow up tweets: Perry added: “Ok, I did not expect that tweet to get this much attention. To answer the main question, no, they don’t notify families when they do this. It’s all public record, so they don’t have to notify (or pay!) anyone. My family found out when everyone else did.

“So when they say they’re doing this “with respect to the victims” or “honouring the dignity of the families”, no one contacts them. My cousins wake up every few months at this point with a bunch of calls and messages and they know there’s another Dahmer show. It’s cruel.”

DaShawn Barnes as Rita Isbell in the new series from Netflix (Photo: Netflix)DaShawn Barnes as Rita Isbell in the new series from Netflix (Photo: Netflix)
DaShawn Barnes as Rita Isbell in the new series from Netflix (Photo: Netflix) | Netflix

In a piece for Insider, Rita Isbell said: “I was never contacted about the show. I feel like Netflix should’ve asked if we mind or how we felt about making it. They didn’t ask me anything. They just did it.”

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She added: “It’s sad that they’re just making money off of this tragedy. That’s just greed. The episode with me was the only part I saw. I didn’t watch the whole show. I don’t need to watch it. I lived it. I know exactly what happened.”

What has Netflix said?

Netflix has not responded to reports that families of Dahmer’s victims being unhappy with the series, however, in a who’s who piece about the show, the streaming platform said that Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story would give the serial killer’s “victims a voice”.

Prior to the series being released on the streaming platform, Evan Peters, who portrays Dahmer himself, told Netflix Queue: “I was very scared about all of the things that Dahmer did, and trying to commit to [playing this character] was absolutely going to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life.

Evan Peters as serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer (Photo: Netflix)Evan Peters as serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer (Photo: Netflix)
Evan Peters as serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer (Photo: Netflix) | Netflix

“It was so jaw-dropping that it all really happened. It felt important to be respectful to the victims and to the victims’ families to try and tell the story as authentically as we could.”

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He added: “It’s called The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, but it’s not just him and his backstory. It’s the repercussions; it’s how society and our system failed to stop him multiple times because of racism and homophobia. Everybody gets their side told.”

DaShawn Barnes, who portrays Rita Isbell, tweeted that the victims “weren’t an afterthought”.

She wrote: “I feel really honoured to be trusted with telling this part of this horrific story. I’m grateful the victims weren’t an afterthought but their humanity and perspectives were reflected in this series.”

Barnes received criticism in response to her tweet, with one person replying: “Now miss girl cut the cap, the family keeps begging people to stop making movies so don’t sit up here and act like you doin something good [eye rolling emoji]”

Another person tweeted: “Did you speak with the victim’s families as part of your research for this role? Or you’re just assuming their humanity and perspective were respected?”

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