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Filmmakers are right to sexualise Ted Bundy – here’s why

It's important to note that if Bundy had fitted the serial killer stereotype, he would have repelled rather than successfully lured his victims

Victoria Selman
Monday 28 January 2019 19:08 GMT
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile: Official trailer

On the wave of our growing obsession with true crime and the explosion of podcasts and TV shows on the subject, Ted Bundy is back in the news. Though this has nothing to do with The Ted Bundy Tapes currently airing on Netflix with the warning: “Don’t watch it alone”. Or the 30th anniversary of his execution by electric chair, celebrated by hundreds of people chanting “burn, Bundy, burn!” outside his death chamber.

Instead, critics are up in arms over a trailer for a new movie about him, entitled Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. Not because of the graphic details but because they are outraged over the casting of Hollywood pretty boy, Zac Efron.

Twitter was ablaze today with angry users claiming that choosing Efron to depict a necrophile serial killer who murdered and dismembered more than 30 women across seven American states, not only glamorises him, but it’s also an affront to his victims.

However, having researched Bundy in great detail as the inspiration for the antagonist in my third novel, I take a rather different view. Not glamorising Bundy is what would constitute the real disservice to his victims.

Many of us buy into the bogeyman myth that evil has a face. When we think of serial killers, we imagine gnarly men with Jaws eyes and pock-marked skin. Hollywood’s partly to blame of course, but the real reason runs deeper than that. The idea that monsters hide in plain sight, that our next-door neighbour or the guy who mows our lawn might be capable of unspeakable acts, is just too terrifying for most of us to contemplate.

This is the very reason Bundy was able to play on his charm and good looks to get close to his prey. The same good looks that the Twitterati is so furious about with regards to Efron.

What these people don’t get is that if Bundy had fitted the serial killer stereotype, he would have repelled rather than successfully lured his victims. Certainly he would have been unlikely to convince young women to help him look for his apparently “lost dog” – especially when a murderer preying on females was known to be at large.

Bundy’s appearance was the reason he was able to trap his targets. To tell the story and leave that part out wouldn’t just be inaccurate, it would also fail to convey why his victims were taken in by him.

All too often novels and films focus on the perpetrator and treat the people they hurt as a footnote. By protesting the choice to cast Efron on the basis he will sexualise Bundy, the critics are missing the key point: Ted Bundy was incredibly charismatic and good looking. Any depiction of him therefore should be sexualised.

Failing to do so wouldn’t just present a distorted picture. It would also propagate both the fallacious serial killer trope and the ludicrous (but still deeply-seated) idea that beauty and innocence go hand in hand.

And until that notion is quashed, suave psychopaths like Bundy will be able to get away with murder.

Victoria Selman is a bestselling author. Her latest novel Blood for Blood will be released on 1 February. She also co-hosts the true crime podcast Crime Girl Gang

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