Opinion | The immorality of romanticizing a serial killer


Via FBI | wikimedia

Ted Bundy is am infamous serial killer responsible for the brutal abuse, assault and murder of 36 women in the 1970s.

By Ana Altchek, Staff Columnist

Ted Bundy is infamous for the brutal abuse, assault and murder of 36 women in the Midwest in the 1970s — although there is reason to suspect there are more unknown victims.

While this is not recent news, the serial killer is back in the spotlight. Netflix recently produced a documentary on his life and a trailer was just released for “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” a dramatized version of his life starring Zac Efron directed by Joe Berlinger and produced by Voltage Pictures.

The Netflix show contains live footage and personal interviews from his time on death row that allow the audience to gain an inside perspective on the mind of Ted Bundy — the seemingly normal, attractive man who committed unthinkable atrocities. While the documentary includes interviews from investigators and criminal officials, it also allows Bundy to posthumously share his full side of the story with his own words.

However, rather than expose the actions of a psychopathic criminal, the movie is trending all over social media because of Bundy’s good looks and supposed charm. Netflix acknowledged this in a tweet and reminded audience members that the intent of the documentary was not to produce fangirls over the serial killer.

“I’ve seen a lot of talk about Ted Bundy’s alleged hotness and would like to gently remind everyone that there are literally THOUSANDS of hot men on the service — almost all of whom are not convicted serial murderers,” the tweet read.

Yet the show included his entire life story from his point of view, while providing little information about how the murders or assaults took place. This put an emphasis on who he was, at the same time it put the deaths of more than 30 women on the backburner.

When I watched the documentary, I fell into this trap as well. It wasn’t until I researched the attacks and the distinctive brutality he used to commit them that I discovered just how vile and perverse he really was.

Along with being a necrophile, he bludgeoned women with metal bars, assaulted them with foreign objects, ate their flesh, kept souvenirs of body parts and focused on specifically brutalizing the most private parts of their bodies.

The film “‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” is the Hollywood portrayal of Bundy’s story. It features Zac Efron, who plays a particularly cunning, attractive and charismatic version of the criminal — only extenuating this newly trending, horrifying fantasy about the character.

Even though the film is not out yet, the trailer itself is shocking. Along with casting an American heartthrob as a vile murderer, the scenes seem to portray his character as an exceptional father figure and hero who has to convince his girlfriend and the jury that he is innocent, when he is clearly the villain in real life.

People seem to have heavily romanticized his persona just because he doesn’t fit the ideal image of a serial killer — socially awkward, unattractive and perhaps outwardly aggressive — but are exaggerating his average qualities rather than his murderous actions, which is exactly what Bundy wanted.

“He liked being the center of attention … the better known he was, the more he put himself under undue risk,” Charles Leidner, the defense attorney of a victim of the case, said in the documentary.

At the time, he was always updated on the most recent news that was reported about him. The fact that he is now being played by one of People’s hottest men for 2017 would be thrilling for him.

“He was obviously paying attention to any time his name was used on the air or in print,” Leidner said. “He was a narcissist along with being a psychopath so I think he watched every newscast he could.”

However, some doubts about this controversy were put to rest when Kathy Kleiner Rubin, a Bundy survivor, gave her approval of the Hollywood film in an interview with 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,” Rubin told TMZ.

Nonetheless, Rubin is a survivor, whereas there are dozens of women whose bodies were mutilated because of this man — and it’s unlikely that her approval can be universally applied to those whose lives are lost.

In fact, two friends of Bundy’s last victim, 12-year-old Kimberly Leach, have spoken out about the recent phenomenon surrounding the murder. Lisa Little, her childhood friend, is disappointed in the industry for using Bundy to make money.

“The fact that they’re making this new movie outrages me, especially because they’re using Zac Efron who’s so cute so attractive,” Little said in a 2019 interview with First Coast News ABC.

While it is acceptable to show his double-sided character and investigate his story, it is unsettling that his story has opened up space for appraisal and such skewed romanticism. The two productions should have focused more on his actions, rather than his personal telling of the story. It is concerning that Hollywood is giving fame to a man who mutilated women’s bodies, beat them with crowbars and dragged them through the woods where their bodies were taken apart by animals.

“If we’re going to talk about Bundy, I want to focus on the victims, they’re the ones that need to be remembered,” Little said. “He has gotten all of the attention he deserves.”

The families of the victims, and the victims themselves, may have been horrified and devastated to know their killer would be trending because of his good looks and charm. It is unfair to the victims who are no longer living, and to future victims of rape or abuse, to normalize or brush off this kind of behavior to sell tickets at the box office.