Our glorification of Ted Bundy is what he would have wanted.
The latest dramatic reimagining of Ted Bundy is in the form of ex-disney heartthrob Zac Efron in his newest Netflix film, ‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile’. Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, by all accounts Efron gives off a good performance, one that focuses on Bundy’s superficial, ‘boyish’ charm that lures in both Elizabeth Kloepfer and dozens of other women who continue to obsess over the serial killer and rapist.
By all accounts, Ted Bundy was almost painfully mediocre
But why Zac Efron? By all accounts, Ted Bundy was almost painfully mediocre. He was widely regarded as a student with average academics and only medium good looks, frustrated that his ideals for greatness were never achieved. His ability to maim, rape and kill women was the only thing that ever made him special.
And yet, during his conviction, he achieved some sort of pseudo-celebrity status: women flocked to the courtroom and passed him love notes during the trial in which he confessed to the murder of over 30 women. His wife, Carole Ann Boone, brought in drugs for Bundy whilst he was incarcerated, and even managed to conceive a child with him.
Whilst the details of Ted Bundy’s case are without a doubt fascinating even without media involvement, is it not sort of perverse to turn him into the dashing anti-hero type that his recent depictions seem to be pushing? The Netflix documentary ‘Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes’ seems to emphasise how unlikely it is that he could be the perpetrator of such crimes. If the documentary’s sympathetic view of the cops is to be believed, then Bundy is a genius, one who managed to evade law enforcement using his superior intellect.
However, by other accounts, Bundy’s escapes were largely due to the incompetence of the police. For example, in his book The Riverman: Ted Bundy and The Hunt for the Green River Killer, King County detective Robert Keppel reported that the first investigators ‘assumed Lynda Healy was possibly having her period at the time of her disappearance, they couldn’t figure out why anyone would kidnap her—they assumed no kidnapper would want to have sex with her.’
This glorification is not unique to Ted Bundy
Surprisingly, nothing of this nature makes it onto the show. This glorification is not unique to Ted Bundy. Frankie Fraser was a celebrity London gangster who was convicted on charges of using pliers to torture a victim, which he denied. According to the Chronicle, Foster’s former lawyer, James Morton, reported he was happy to pose with pliers in front of his supporters, pretending to pull out an imaginary victim’s tooth. He was locked up in HM Prison Durham in the 1950s, before being sent to Broadmoor. Ian Brady and Myra Hindley also spent time in Durham’s prison, where Brady, who was incarcerated in 1966, received gifts and trinkets that totalled a worth of £100k upon his death, according to his lawyer.
Our treatment of serial killers, especially male serial killers, is very disturbing once you look at cases such as these. Why do we do it? Many women fall for a twisted, false version of the popular ‘bad boy’ trope; the idea that they will be able to change and heal such a damaged man through loving him is misguided, but one that has been made possible through popular recent media.
Our treatment of serial killers, especially male serial killers, is very disturbing
Others might simply have a desire to share the killer’s spotlight, and, rather like Ted Bundy, use the tragedy that has befallen the victims of such crimes as a chance to emerge from anonymity.
They may even see it as a chance to land a book or movie deal, an aspiration that is as narcissistic as it is self-serving. The true root cause of this fixation will likely remain unclear. However, one thing is certain: no one is making movies about any of the young women whose lives Bundy took.
Illustration by Jasmyn Fraser