A new movie about notorious murderer Ted Bundy, which will star Zac Efron, is stirring up debate about the potential risks of glamorizing serial killers and psychopaths. Theodore Bundy was an American serial killer born on November 24, 1946 in Burlington, Vermont. Between 1974 and 1978, Bundy raped and killed dozens of women across seven states. He was executed on January 24, 1989 in Florida after confessing to raping and killing 30 women. The true number of victims is unknown.
Now, in 2019, almost 30 years after his execution, a new movie “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” stars Zac Efron as Ted Bundy in which they display his horrifying story and criminal activity.
This new film has sparked controversy throughout social media and news outlets. Viewers of the new trailer are concerned about the glamorization and romanticization of Ted Bundy. A CNN article discusses how this film draws on real life suffering and death and uses these elements to finesse and engage an audience. The director of the film stood his ground, saying his intention is not to glorify Ted Bundy in the slightest. Director Joe Berlinger says, “If you actually watch the movie, the last thing we’re doing is glorifying him. He gets his due at the end, but we’re portraying the experience of how one becomes a victim to that kind of psychopathic seduction.”
The uprising this movie has caused me to wonder- why does society have an obsession with serial killers? I spoke to a forensics teacher, Mr. Agsalud, who has been here for twelve years, about our fascination with these killers and psychopaths in media. When asked he responded, “I think because it is so crazy and that no one ever thinks that could be your next door neighbor. That’s the scariest part they could live in your neighborhood and you wouldn’t know it. I think it makes you aware and not necessarily afraid.”
We then discussed the way that serial killers and psychopaths are portrayed in media such as documentaries and movies such as this new Ted Bundy film. When asked for his input Mr. Agsalud said, “There’s a morbid fascination, like watching a train wreck, you know people are getting hurt but you can’t look away. Glamorization- not so good but, information on the topic is still good.” He then went into the fact that the media wants to inform people on these disturbing topics while also making it interesting to watch. “Especially with these documentary series, if you want to get people to know about these horrible things you need to make it interesting.” We talked about the fact that informing people and getting them to listen requires making film and television more entertaining to watch. Which then includes twisting the truth and exaggerating. This then opens up the door to the glamorization and romanticization of these killers and where we should draw the line.
I then asked Mr. Agsalud to watch the trailer to “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” so he could give his opinion whether or not the line was crossed. After viewing Zac Efron in his new role, Mr. Agsalud said to me, “I think the trailer does portray him as an ‘action superstar’ and I don’t think that that’s great.” He continued on to talk about the glamorization of Ted Bundy so far in just the trailer, “That’s definitely glamorization for sure. That might be too much.”
The responses on Twitter have been similar to Mr. Agsalud’s response. One user tweets about how spot-on casting Zac Efron is and her emotion towards it. She writes, “and in this moment, watching the ted bundy tapes, i realized just how spot on casting zac efron as ted bundy was……this is unsettling” — JOANNA (@Jobazzle) January 24, 2019. Another user spoke about how the film is insensitive and crossing the line mentioned earlier. She writes, “this ain’t it. not only is this trailer making the film seem like a comedy, completely insensitive to murders that really took place, but they casted zac efron and are romanticizing a viscous criminal by making him seem more attractive. i’m gonna be sick.” — kayli. (@realchamalet) January 25, 2019.
While most viewers aren’t pleased with this trailer, there is another aspect to take into consideration: the fact that Ted Bundy did use his looks and charm to lure women away with him and that is how he was able to commit so many crimes for so long. Kathy Kleiner Rubin, who survived being kidnapped and attacked by Bundy, spoke out and gave her opinion on the topic. She said, “I believe that in order to show him exactly the way he 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.” Rubin brings up the point that many people saw Bundy as a smart attractive young man who would never be capable of fulfilling these crimes.
Regardless of people’s opinions on the morality of the film, there is little doubt it will be a commercial success. With Zac Efron in the leading role and a gruesome real-world event at the heart of the script, there will be no shortage of discussion when the movie is released this fall.