Thirty years ago on Jan. 24 1989, notorious serial killer Ted Bundy met his end by the electric chair in Orlando, Fla. for the murder of at least 30 women between 1974 and 1978. Jan. 25 of this year, the trailer for “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile”, an account of Bundy’s crimes from the point of view of his long-time girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer, dropped. As a fan of true crime myself, the Ted Bundy case has always fascinated me. With this in mind, I was shocked to see the vast number of critics who took to social media, denouncing the film and the casting of Zac Efron as the killer. It seemed that many people had gotten the impression that this movie was somehow glamorizing Bundy, and as someone who is well-versed in the case, this made absolutely no sense to me.
Even during the rise of serial killers in the ’70s, the Bundy case stuck out. More often than not, serial killers kidnap their victims when they are alone and are usually described as creepy and unsettling. Bundy, however, was widely regarded as charismatic and handsome, which is one of the reasons he was able to lure several of his victims into his trap. Occasionally he was even able to approach them in public. A lot of people are ignoring this fact and claiming that by casting Zac Efron they are ‘glamorizing’ or ‘romanticizing’ Bundy. What they do not seem to realize is that by casting a conventionally attractive and younger man such as Efron, the directors are being accurate, not lauding the killer in any way.
Since the trailer came out, a considerable number of people have objected to the movie’s portrayal of Bundy. You would likely think that these people are victims speaking out in opposition to the movie. In reality, victims are speaking out, but not in opposition. Recently, Kathy Kleiner Rubin, a survivor of one of Bundy’s attacks at Florida State University told TMZ, “I don’t have a problem with people looking at it, as long as they understand that what they’re watching wasn’t a normal person. I believe that in order to show him exactly the way it was, it’s not really glorifying him, but it’s showing him, and when they do say positive and wonderful things about him, that’s what they saw — that’s what Bundy wanted you to see.” Many of the people who are asserting themselves in defiance of the movie say they are doing so for the victims, but what they do not realize is that they are drowning out the voices that truly matter in this argument.
I believe that the dismantling of this movie is rooted in a larger controversy, as many people equate an interest in true crime with glorifying and approving of these horrible killers. For this reason, the true crime genre has always been controversial. Although there are people who take this interest too far, to the point where they are romanticizing these cases, the vast majority do not. The disapproval of the true crime genre is evident through the onslaught of critics on social media for this movie. Most true crime fans are simply people with an interest in psychology and criminal investigation, but many people continue to believe that if anyone is interested in these cases, they must also be glorifying them.
The world’s fascination with serial killers will never end. Jack the Ripper began his killings nearly a century ago, but it remains one of the most investigated and written about cases in history. These stories will continue to fascinate people, so we must understand that portraying these stories accurately does not equate to the glamorization of these killers. As the true crime fan I am, I will definitely be going to see “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” before I make any judgments about the portrayal of Ted Bundy, and I hope that you will give the movie a chance, as well.
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