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Entry #11 The Passion of the Dahmer Fans
Fantasy art—where obsession eclipses reality. (NSFW).
“The enormity of Dahmer, the gross horror of his murders, somehow brings out a mute awe in his fans—this, they feel, is a super being like the gods of Greek mythology” —John Calendo
ONCE YOU’RE DOWN the rabbit hole, your mind fragments into conflicting responses—shock, disbelief, confusion, humor, and then, finally, the screaming question, ‘Why?’
I’m talking about the gigs of Jeffrey Dahmer fan art (and videos) that clog scores of Tumblr blogs, subreddits, Facebook, Discord, TikTok, and Twitter accounts, as well as online forums like Deviant Art. And as of this year, a new breed of imagery appeared—slick mashups created in the prompt-driven AI app Midjourney.
In November of last year, when I commenced work on the first draft of my romance novel, I Love You Jeffrey Dahmer, I began trawling the Dahmer fan sites and feeds regularly. Initially, this involved research for my book, but then I began encountering the streams of fan art, which compelled me to visit the sites or feeds more frequently. Each visit became a contest. Would I be able to top the visual oddities I’d encountered the week before?
And yes, most of the time, I did.
How to explain what compels their creation?
If you take a psycho-pathology approach to understanding the phenomena, you encounter the term hybristophilia. Defined as a sexual deviation involving passionate interest in and attraction to those who commit crimes.
When I asked a shrink friend of mine her impression of the images, she told me:
“The artists who create these renderings might feel that the ritual of depiction grants them insight into Dahmer’s nature. Sort of like reverse engineering a voodoo doll. Art often erases the contradicition between obsession and objection. It’s similar to what our unconscious offers up through the nocturnal realm of dreams. Freed from moral constraints, dreams and art dodge taboo’s proscriptions and the admonishments of the scold.”
But what of the erotic attraction to Dahmer?
As I wrote recently:
“…there is a beguilement about Dahmer’s physical comliness that generates an aura of exemption around his criminal persona. This permission allows the fascinated to blindspot his offenses and focus solely on Dahmer as a sex symbol.”
The novelist John Calendo offers a specific sketch that riffs on the mythic dimensions of beauty. As well as a peculiar exemption that’s akin to the blinders worn by the religiously devoted. As much as his close read offers insight, it also moves one back to the incredulity of square one. A typical catch-22 when it comes to Jeffrey Dahmer:
“These images all have a whiff of incense and prayer about them. Not merely fetish images but deifications. Realistically, Dahmer’s killing spree…is disgusting. But all that is eclipsed by Jeffrey Dahmer's Nordic beauty, the cold Nordic stoicism with which he does not shirk from the slurs on his character but invites them as just.
Ultimately, we are silenced by his steady, sober conviction that he, unlike the rest of us, earns death—not ordinary death, but legendary death, for he is bashed with a dumbbell that he himself used in killing his first victim. The round is complete. It ends at it began.
The enormity of Dahmer, the gross horror of his murders, somehow brings out a mute awe in his fans—this, they feel, is a super being like the gods of Greek mythology, who are unbound by morality, who stand above good and evil.
In the end, the fan mania around Dahmer is a worship of beauty—solitary, remote, beyond our touch, a Nordic beauty that is dark in the sunlight … a mania accelerated by the ebony sheen of Dahmer's infamy.”
What’s your take on the Dahmer fan art phenomenon? Leave a comment below.
Until next time,
‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You’ Dahmer video via TikTok.
Opening image, Catholic Saint Dahmer via now-defunct Tumblr account.
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