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A Critical Look at Ted Bundy in the Media

Katharine Breedlove '20, Staff Writer

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Ted Bundy, the notorious American serial killer and rapist of at least thirty young women and girls, has been a hot topic of conversation since this past January, which marks the thirty-year anniversary of his execution by the state. The recent release of the documentary Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, and the movie trailer release of Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile, a film with Zac Efron cast as Ted Bundy, has sparked many debates over Bundy.

As soon as I learned that Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes was released on Netflix, I was fascinated. With no previous knowledge of Ted Bundy and a desire to delve into the true crime genre that all my friends adore, I decided to complete the entire series in one sitting, which may not have been the smartest idea for my sanity or sleep routine. Four and a half hours later, I felt fairly educated about Bundy. Because of this revolting man, we now have the term “serial killer,” and a more organized system to capture and find such serial killers. Objectively, I would recommend the show to those interested in true crime and the story of Ted Bundy. Morally, I question the amount of attention we are giving to the notorious killer.  

Throughout my binge watching of the Conversations with A Killer, a thought plagued my mind. This attention is exactly what Ted Bundy would have wanted. I felt almost guilty watching something that would have made the despicable man happy. Throughout the series, the viewers relive Bundy’s thought processes and listen to his narcissistic and manipulative words that drip with so-called “charm.” The series is a disturbing portrait of his words, his thought process, and his murders. Ted Bundy’s words are now forever immortalized in this series. Why did we give him this platform? This credit? The chance to show his point of view? He would have adored it. The series best serves as insight into how a narcissistic human thinks and the storyline of the Ted Bundy murders. It is well made and fascinating, especially for someone like me, without previous knowledge of him.

The series shed light onto the manipulation a person is capable of. While Bundy was on trial, he had a girlfriend who was utterly convinced that he was an innocent man. In fact, while he was in court for the trial of his murder of a little girl, Ted Bundy took the opportunity to propose marriage to his girlfriend, and she accepted. He even had women coming to his trials just to watch him, as if he were a rockstar at a concert, not a murderer on trial. It is important to note that Ted Bundy is given much more credit and glorification of his charm than necessary. Before he became the famous serial killer, he was noted by others as simply awkward, outcastish, and different. Once he became famous, he used the platform to put on the facade of charm to cover the insecure and pitiful man he was at the core. His charms were only amplified after the media gave attention to him.

Now, thirty years after Bundy’s execution, Zac Efron will portray himself as the one and only, Ted Bundy. Why give Bundy the satisfaction of being represented by the High School Musical teenage heartthrob? The film, directed by Joe Berlinger, who also created Conversations With a Killer, is a biographical crime thriller film of Bundy’s life. Based on the trailer, this film may be an overt romanticization of Bundy. The creation of Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Violent may unnecessarily exploit the victims of Ted Bundy, which seems extraordinarily uncalled for.

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A Critical Look at Ted Bundy in the Media