Dennis Nilsen isn’t a well-known serial killer in the United States. He’s more “Blur” than “Beatles.” Sure, people in a certain sector of the community know all about him. There’s a pretty good short series on Amazon about him where David Tennant does possibly the best portrayal of any real life murderer I’ve seen. Let’s save that debate for another day.
In watching Memories of a Murderer: The Nilsen Tapes, I found myself seeing a story I pretty much knew unfold. This is a one film piece with the main basis being a chance to hear recordings made by Nilsen while imprisoned.
As a whole, the documentary was a decent one. Nothing about it was incredible. It did its job without any extra credit involved.
Overall Score: 7 out of 10
Rather than go into why it was good and what could’ve gone better, I want to share two of the major takeaways I had while watching this.
Memories of a Murderer is a reminder of how unacceptance of others can have harsh consequences
Yes, Dennis Nilsen probably would have found some excuse to kill even if his homosexuality was accepted by society. However, in watching plenty of true crime documentaries, I can’t help but see a connection between people like him, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, and many other notorious bad guys. Same sex relations were a crime in Great Britain at the time and Nilsen grew up feeling like he was a criminal just for who he was attracted to.
The documentary isn’t all about how our prejudices help fuel monsters but they wisely do address it. This seemed to be a big part of what made Nilsen the villain he grew up to become.
It’s hard for a society to draw the line because if we simply legalized everything then a whole lot of other horrific acts would take place legally. Jared from Subway would be out prowling the streets freely.
From my observations, and this isn’t anything groundbreaking, a whole lot of serial killers are created because of sexual preferences and their need to feel like they must hide it. Was Nilsen someone who could have been saved at some point? We’ll neer know. A harder look into how society plays a role in shaping these beasts is something to explore.
Memories of a Murderer raises another question about why more people named Dennis don’t go by Des
I know Dennis isn’t exactly the most popular name but is there another Dennis out there going by the nickname Des? It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense at first. Usually we knock off letters. He should be Den or Nis. Instead, it’s the middle we cut off. I don’t think this had nearly as much to do with him becoming a murderer later on in life. It was, however, the second biggest thought I had when this one was over.
Would Den Nilsen or Nis Nilsen have grown up to be savages? The world will never know.
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