When we denounce the repeated storytelling of slavery and Black trauma through film, we must also consider the recent and highly anticipated Jeffrey Dahmer biopic on Netflix. Why? Because the majority of his victims were people of color and Black people. The sister of victim Errol Lindsey, Rita Isbell, shared her thoughts on the show in an essay with Insider.
“Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” directed by Ryan Murphy, features a recreation of Isbell’s explosive victim impact testimony when she addressed the monster who killed her brother. She said she wrote down what she wanted to say but in the moment, it was a whole new ball game. “I was face-to-face with pure evil,” she wrote. She wasn’t scared of him, but she said her anger erupted because he wouldn’t look at her. Seeing the moment replay on the television was shocking.
“When I saw some of the show, it bothered me, especially when I saw myself — when I saw my name come across the screen and this lady saying verbatim exactly what I said,” she wrote via Insider. “If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve thought it was me. Her hair was like mine, she had on the same clothes. That’s why it felt like reliving it all over again. It brought back all the emotions I was feeling back then.”
A Twitter user who identified as Isbell’s relative echoed the shared the same disturbed reaction to the viral comparison of the original footage of Isbell’s testimony and the recreation. The video has gathered nearly 10 million views.
In her essay, Isbell said she wasn’t contacted by Netflix to discuss that part of the show or how she and her family felt about making it. Even though the show did resurface some of her trauma, she said now she’s in a healthier emotionally to deal with it.
“I’m still learning how to forgive, even if I don’t understand, and keep on with my life. I can’t change other people or things that have happened. I can only change myself,” she wrote.
More rom Isbell’s essay via Insider:
Errol’s always going to be alive in my spirit. And then his daughter. I have to keep him alive so I can talk about him to her.
The positive thing to come out of this is that the world didn’t know that my brother had any children. That has never been discussed to the public, but he had gotten someone pregnant before his death. Today, she’s exactly 31 years old, and this happened 31 years ago.
It’s not about me anymore, it’s about her. So when they mention my name, I’m going to always refer to her, Tatiana Banks: Errol Lindsey’s daughter. And now, he even has a granddaughter, too.