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Zac Efron as Ted Bundy in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile Credit: Voltage Pictures (Original Caption) Close up of Theodore Bundy, convicted Florida murderer, charged with other killings. Credit: Bettmann/Getty

Ted Bundy Controversy

February 27, 2019

The History of Bundy

Ted Bundy was a serial killer and a rapist, one of the most notorious criminals of the late 20th century. He sexually assaulted and killed several women in Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Utah, and Florida between 1974 and 1978. They only got him for 28 murders originally, and he confessed to 30 later, but some estimate that he may have been responsible for hundreds of deaths. He was executed by the electric chair in Florida in 1989.

Bundy was insanely smart, went to college, and was very social when he got older (he was shy beforehand). After to the recent announcement of a Bundy movie coming out called Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile, I’ve noticed a bunch of people trying to argue by saying nothing was special about him; he wasn’t clever, he was antisocial, he wasn’t smart, and he wasn’t attractive. He was very smart. He dropped out of college because he wanted to get into a job, not be in school. He also volunteered at the Seattle office of Nelson Rockefeller’s presidential campaign, and in August 1968 he attended the Republican National Convention in Miami as a Rockefeller delegate. Ted Bundy once aspired to become the governor of Washington State. The only reason he didn’t get the chance to run was because of the murders.

Bundy was regarded by many of his young female victims as handsome and charismatic, traits that he exploited to win their trust. He was known for being handsome, social, a cookie cutter republican, and charming, which is none of what the police were looking for. His own victims that survived have said this. He lured them in with his personality 98% of the time. Women literally sent him love notes while he was in jail.  The people who wrote the docu series and movies never focused on his good looks and charms to romanticize him, rather they focused on it because that’s not how the police working on the case imagined serial killers. This wasn’t the first serial killer. People refer to him as that because the actual term “serial killer” was created based off of him, but mass murders like this still happened. It just didn’t get the recognition.

Everyone is saying Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile is sexualizing Bundy because of Zac Efron. What a lot of people don’t know is that him being portrayed like that is the entire point. He was attractive, brilliant, hard working, clean, and actually really funny. That’s what was scary. It was a huge deal because he wasn’t who you thought of when you thought “serial killer.” It was basically uprooting anything the police were using as a common profile. It could’ve been anyone. He was insanely charming and manipulative so everyone was crazy about him and the story. Casting Zac Efron was probably the smartest choice they could’ve made.

Reaction to Efron as Bundy

Thirty years after Ted Bundy’s execution, there are still movies, books, and podcasts from those who study the life and mind of him, fascinated by the horrors of his story. On January 28th, Netflix released a documentary series observing the killer and his crimes through the voices of journalist, friends, and the man himself in Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes. Within the same week, a trailer for the movie Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile was released. This was nothing new in terms of Hollywood using historical events to spread awareness and become top at the box office. There has been an overwhelming amount of backlash from people across the media asking the same question: When does talk surrounding criminals stop being a healthy conversation, and become a celebration?

After the release of the Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile trailer, Zac Efron being cast as Ted Bundy has become a controversial topic. Zac Efron is known to be somewhat of a teenage heartthrob, so him playing the role of a mass murder isn’t a part of his High School Musical brand. Critics of the trailer claim that casting Zac Efron romanticizes Ted Bundy. Through a minute and forty-eight second trailer viewers got the idea that Joe Berlinger, the film’s director, choose to portray Bundy as a misunderstood character.

It’s no secret that Hollywood adaptations use popular, attractive actors and actresses to draw a larger audience to theaters despite them being the complete opposite of who they’re supposed to be. Although this happens often, this isn’t one of those cases. Ted Bundy was always described as attractive and charming. Someone who could easily catch your eye and keep you engaged long enough to build a bond of trust. Whether it’s a detail about him we want to accept, his looks and charm are what people close to him recall the most. People who were just as shocked, scared, and confused to learn that their friend was a killer.

The film is told through the eyes of Bundy’s ex-girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer, played by Lily Collins. This is an important detail of the film that is not made clear through the trailer. It isn’t so much of an in depth expose of the heinous crimes of Bundy, but instead the retelling of events from someone close to him. Her point of view should make the audience consider if they would recognize a monster as the passed you on the street or lay next you at night.

Instead of blindly becoming a victim of outrage culture, it’s important to view the history of the film and it’s intent. The film has yet to be released to the public and already people are boycotting as if that will take away the purpose of the movie. The problem doesn’t lie within the trailer, directing, or even production. The problem isn’t that an attractive person was casted to play another attractive person. The real problem is society’s tendency to selectively villainize or accept those who confirm our personal beliefs. This is a flaw in our society that is shown in the horrific killings of Ted Bundy and in people’s reactions to the Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. Until the film is released for the public to see, an open mind should be kept and judgments should wait on stand-by.

While observing the story and crimes of Ted Bundy, it is important to recognize and honor his victims. Below are the victims who have been identified:

Karen Sparks (age 18), Lynda Ann Healy (21), Donna Gail Manson (19), Susan Elaine Rancourt (18), Roberta Kathleen Parks (22), Brenda Carol Ball (22), Georgann Hawkins (18), Janice Ann Ott (23), Denise Marie Naslund (19), Nancy Wilcox (16), Melissa Anne Smith (17), Laura Ann Aime (17), Carol DaRonch (18), Debra Jean Kent (17), Caryn Eileen Campbell (23), Julie Cunningham (26), Denise Lynn Oliverson (25), Lynette Dawn Culver (12), Susan Curtis (15), Lisa Levy (20), Margaret Elizabeth Bowman (21), Karen Chandler (21), Kathy Kleiner (21), Cheryl Thomas (21), Kimberly Diane Leach (12)


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