by Joshua Carone ’22 A&E Staff
Netflix has recently been in the headlines recently for the controversial release of its newest documentary, Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes. The problems do not stem from the documentary itself, but more from the responses of audiences, specifically the people idolizing Bundy because of his apparent attractiveness. However, this is not a generational issue; viewers who lived during the actual case remember that Bundy’s alluring pull was an issue then, too.
The masses lusting over America’s most famed serial killer through social media forced Netflix to remind its audience that the subject of the documentary brutally killed dozens of women. The streaming service tweeted last Monday, “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.”.
America’s fascination with the serial killer has only grown since Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile, the feature film surrounding the home-life of Bundy, debuted at Sundance last week, directed by none other than Joe Berlinger, the director of the Netflix documentary. Berlinger added fuel to the Bundy obsession by casting Zac Efron as the renowned killer.
The feature chronicles the crimes of Bundy through the eyes of his longtime girlfriend, Elizabeth Kloepfer, portrayed by Lily Collins. Kloepfer’s story provides an interesting perspective, as she, like many close to Bundy, refused to believe he was the serial-killer sociopath the media painted him as.
While most agreed that Efron dominated the role, the film received backlash due to its apparent glorification of Bundy, as many critics argue that Berlinger’s direction portrays the killer almost as an anti-hero and romanticizes his evasion of law enforcement in a Thelma and Louise-esque way. The obvious discrepancy in the comparison is that Thelma and Louise fled the police after killing a rapist, while Bundy himself was a convicted rapist and murderer.
However, another group of viewers state that the movie was right in its representation of Bundy, noting the killer was the charismatic figure depicted on the silver screen in real life. Berlinger responded to the controversy by telling Bustle, “If you actually watch the movie, the last thing we’re doing is glorifying him. He gets his due at the end, but we’re portraying the experience of how one becomes a victim to that kind of psychopathic seduction.”
The film currently sits with an audience-voted 8.0/10 on IMDB, an unusually high score for a movie so polarizing for critics. Nevertheless, the audience score is a perfect delineation of America’s fixation with taboo and the art of making entertainment out of human tragedy.