Netflix’s Dahmer has been praised for its depiction of Jeffrey Dahmer’s story through actor Evan Peters. Peters portrays a fully fleshed out Dahmer during his adult years, but even back in his adolescence Dahmer showed signs of a darker nature.
Still, one of Dahmer’s high school friends saw at least one moment where the infamous killer seemed normal. But the moment didn’t last long.
John Backderf was responsible for the movie ‘My Friend Dahmer’
Jeffrey Dahmer’s story has been adapted and translated through many forms of media. In addition to numerous books and the Netflix series, Hawkeye’s Jeremy Renner would portray the character in 2002’s Dahmer.
Whereas some stories focused on Dahmer’s activities as an adult, other adaptations were interested in his childhood and adolescent years. The 2017 movie My Friend Dahmer not only followed the killer’s formative years, but included perspective from some of Dahmer’s high school friends.
Dahmer’s companions, including John “Derf” Backderf played by Alex Wolff, couldn’t help notice certain odd habits Dahmer had during his youth. In hindsight, these oddities were clues that revealed the man Dahmer would later become.
The film was also very personal for the real-life John Backderf, who created the graphic novel of the same name that inspired the flick.
John Backderf once recalled one of Jeffrey Dahmer’s last moments of normalcy in high school
Backderf, already a cartoonist at the time, was inspired to write My Friend Dahmer after Dahmer’s crimes were exposed. But even before working on the graphic novel, Dahmer inspired Backderf to draw illustrations of him during their high school days. This was because Dahmer moved in a very peculiar way that Backderf found interesting.
“He never seemed to quite fit into his own body or into the world around him,” Backderf once told Vulture.
Years later, Backderf would be inspired to revisit Dahmer after his crimes were exposed. The author confided that his graphic novel took a couple of decades to officially get off the ground. In that time, he spent those years thoroughly investigating the murderer. His research re-contextualized their entire relationship.
“Everything was redefined in a completely sinister way. That was a very disorienting experience and took some time to come to terms with,” he once told the Phoenix New Times.
Despite some of the darkness Dahmer conveyed in his adolescence, both the graphic novel and movie touched on a human side to the character. Dahmer and his friends once went on a school trip to Washington D.C. Once there, he conned his way into the office of then-Vice President Walter Mondale. The moment stood out to Backderf, who felt that was the last time Dahmer showed signs of humanity.
“That incident in D.C. was probably his last flash of ‘normality,'” Backderf said. “There wasn’t much left of him by our senior year. I wouldn’t pin his fate on what happened at home. Hell, lots of kids had parents who went through nasty divorces and none of them went on to kill 17 people. What his parents’ breakup provided was cover. They were too wrapped up in their nuclear divorce to notice what was happening with Jeff.”
John Backderf was creeped out by the actor who played Jeffrey Dahmer
Before Evan Peters, actor Ross Lynch also portrayed Jeffrey Dahmer in My Friend. Having a close connection with Dahmer himself, Backderf remembered being a bit uncomfortable with how much Lynch nailed the character. Which he felt was a testament to Lynch’s performance.
“The actors were all calling themselves by their film names, so Alex Wolff went by ‘Derf’ and Ross Lynch answered to ‘Jeff,'” Backderf recalled. “That was a bit of a head-shaker, especially since Ross looked so much like Dahmer when he was in costume. One time in particular, I was chatting with Ross between scenes when he was in his full Dahmer get-up, and it freaked me out. I said, ‘Dude, you HAVE to take off those glasses or I can’t talk to you.’ Ross tells that story often.”