Times People Close To The Victims Spoke Out Against True Crime Biopics
Movies and miniseries based on real-life crimes are becoming increasingly more popular year after year. Evolutionary psychologists claim humans are naturally “highly attuned to criminal misdemeanors" and we gobble up the gory details to learn how to protect ourselves.
Bill Thomas, whose sister's unsolved death has been the subject of several podcasts, said, “I think there’s an obsession with the dark and our darkest impulses. People like to stand up and look over the edge of that precipice.”
But what do the family members of the victims think about these true crime biopics? Some claim the movies and shows are “tacky” and made by greedy producers who only want to exploit their pain.
- Photo: Netflix
Despite a producer claiming Ryan Murphy's Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story would be “a story about the victims," the true-crime series still received backlash from family members.
In 1991, Dahmer murdered 19-year-old Errol Lindsey. Rita Isbell, Lindsey's sister who spoke during Dahmer's trial, watched some of the show and said:
When I saw some of the show, it bothered me, especially when I saw myself... 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.
Isbell claims Netflix didn't contact her while making the series. “It's sad that they're just making money off of this tragedy," she said. Isbell believes Netflix should give some money to the children of Dahmer's victims. “If the show benefited them in some way, it wouldn't feel so harsh and careless.”
Eric Perry, who claims to be Isbell's cousin, tweeted:
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 pissed about this show. It’s retraumatizing over and over again, and for what? How many movies/shows/documentaries do we need?
He also tweeted: “Like recreating my cousin having an emotional breakdown in court in the face of the man who tortured and murdered her brother is WILD. WIIIIIILD.”
After Peters won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of the murderer, Shirley Hughes, whose son was killed by Dahmer, wished Peters had mentioned the victims in his acceptance speech. Hughes said:
There's a lot of sick people around the world, and people winning acting roles from playing killers keeps the obsession going and this makes sick people thrive on the fame.
You can read more about Dahmer's crimes here.
- Photo: Netflix
In 1978, 12-year-old Kimberly Leach was serial killer Ted Bundy's last victim. Lisa Little, Kimberly's best friend, wishes the Ted Bundy obsession would stop. “We wish this could get put to rest,” she said. “We’re tired of hearing about Bundy.”
Bundy has been the subject of several true-crime books, biopics, and documentaries. Mark Harmon, Cary Elwes, Zac Efron, and Chad Michael Murray have all played the killer in various projects.
Lisa Little said:
We’re tired of turning on the news and seeing his face, turning on Netflix there’s a documentary… The fact that they're making this new movie [Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile] outrages me, especially because they're using Zac Efron, who's so cute, so attractive.
Little thinks we should focus more on the victims: “[T]hey're the ones that need to be remembered. He has gotten all of the attention he deserves.”
Twitter user ahsokavaders also critiqued Hollywood's Bundy obsession, writing:
[T]hese were real girls and women [whose] lives were taken by a vile man but sure, keep making these [Ted Bundy] movies and forcing these [victims'] families and friends to relive the trauma of what happened to their loved ones.
- Photo: Hulu
In 2014, 18-year-old Conrad Roy III died by suicide. His girlfriend, Michelle Carter, was convicted in 2017 for involuntary manslaughter after encouraging him to do so.
In 2019, HBO released a two-part documentary about the case called I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth vs. Michelle Carter, and in 2022, Elle Fanning played Carter in the Hulu miniseries The Girl from Plainville.
Roy's mother, Lynn St. Denis, said she's worried that in The Girl from Plainville, “there may be an attempt to defend some of [Carter's] needless and evil actions.”
Dennis is currently trying to criminalize suicide coercion in Massachusetts in proposed legislation called “Conrad's Law.”
You can read more about the documentary here.
- Photo: Showtime
In 2015, corrections worker Joyce Mitchell helped two convicted murderers, Richard Matt and David Sweat, escape from a maximum-security prison in upstate New York. Sweat was eventually taken into custody, but a SWAT team shot and killed Matt during the multi-million-dollar manhunt. In 2020, Mitchell was released from prison, where she had been sentenced for her involvement in the escape.
Showtime turned the crime into a 2018 miniseries called Escape at Dannemora, directed by Ben Stiller and starring Patricia Arquette as Mitchell.
Although the real Mitchell hadn't seen the show, she was still angry with certain aspects of it. Mitchell said:
I never had sex with [Richard Matt and David Sweat]… Ben Stiller is a son-of-a-b*tch liar just like the rest of the world. He doesn't care about the truth. All he cares about is making millions off me. He's an idiot.
Mitchell plans to one day write a book about her side of the story.
- Photo: Sony Pictures Classics
Oscar-nominated wrestling crime biopic Foxcatcher, directed by Bennett Miller, told the true story of billionaire John du Point's relationship with brothers Mark and Dave Schultz. Du Point murdered Dave Schultz in 1996.
Mark took to social media to express his anger at Miller's biopic, in which Channing Tatum played Mark:
YOU CROSSED THE LINE MILLER. WE'RE DONE. [YOUR] CAREER IS OVER. YOU THINK I CAN'T DO IT. WATCH ME.
Mark was particularly upset by one scene that he felt was “jeopardizing [his] legacy,” which implied a sexual relationship between du Point and Mark:
[It is] sickening and insulting lie… I told Bennett Miller to cut that scene out and he said it was to give the audience the feeling that du Pont was “encroaching on your privacy and personal space.” Then after reading 3 or 4 reviews interpreting it sexually… they need to have a press conference to clear the air, or I will.
He eventually claimed, “I don’t have any opinion about [the movie].”
- Photo: Hulu
Pamela Anderson refuses to watch the limited series based on her stolen sex tape. A source told E! News:
The burglary was a living nightmare. This burglary is the only thing in her life she would erase from her life. It haunts her to this day… This was a very traumatic time in her life. And it's shocking that they are recreating it.
Showrunner D.V. DeVincentis said the team tried getting Pamela Anderson's approval before making the movie. They reportedly wanted to let her know Lily James would portray her in a “positive” way. He said:
We didn't get a response, but considering what she's been through and the time that we were reaching out, that was understandable.
Tommy Lee doesn't seem to be upset by the series. “The story's actually cool, what actually happened wasn't.”
Lily James said of her portrayal, "My sole intention was to take care of the story and to play Pamela authentically."
When asked about the people who made the series, Anderson later called them “a**holes" and said they “still owe me a public apology.”