Zac Efron’s Ted Bundy film divides critics and social media

Every now and then, the internet becomes thoroughly obsessed with serial killers. This time, it’s Ted Bundy, the subject of both Netflix’s Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes and the upcoming film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile starring Zac Efron.

But some internet users are torn over the latter’s depiction of Bundy. They claim the upcoming thriller makes light of his violent killing spree that ended the life of at least 30 women.

Controversy first began after a trailer for Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile went live on Friday. The clip introduces viewers to Elizabeth Kloepfer, Bundy’s girlfriend, and her relationship with the serial killer before and during his trial. However, the trailer humanizes Bundy in order to capture the confusion and uncertainty Kloepfer felt. At times, it almost feels like a romantic comedy, one where the extremely quirky, shockingly charming, and friendly hero begs his girlfriend to trust him while being framed for being a serial killer.

Viewers, particularly women, felt conflicted. After all, Bundy isn’t a fictional character, he’s a real person that killed real women over two dozen times. As Twitter user @_kitto_ explained, she found the trailer “honestly sickening.”

“Imagine you had a daughter that was raped before being murdered and then decades later an edgy thriller about the man who did it is made, where he’s portrayed as some cool, impressive guy rather than the disgusting animal he was, honestly sickening,” @_kitto_ tweeted. Her post has since earned over 41,000 retweets and 140,000 likes.

Many users were quick to agree with her response, criticizing the film for its depiction of Bundy.

https://twitter.com/celineorelse/status/1089638898509275136

But not everyone felt the same way about the film’s trailer. After all, the movie is trying to capture the confusion and self-doubt Kloepfer experienced while dating Bundy. While the trailer’s edits and mood downplay Bundy’s actual violent behavior, that’s part of the point: He was charming and preyed upon those around him.

https://twitter.com/arabian_kitten/status/1089280957234991104

https://twitter.com/arabian_kitten/status/1089281182553042944

In the end, Twitter users will have to wait for the film’s debut in theaters to decide whether its approach to Bundy is in poor taste. But for the record, initial reviews on the film are far from promising. Case in point, Kevin Fallon from the Daily Beast criticized Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile for its uncomfortable handle on Efron’s “Hot Ted Bundy.”

“There’s little in the way of dissection or even depiction of the murders, which has the absurd effect of elevating Efron’s winsome Bundy into a protagonist you root for getting away with it all,” Fallon writes. “And as for any insight into Bundy’s psychology—why he did it, how he thought he could get away with it, why he maintained his innocence for so long—there’s none of that.”

In other words, it seems critics have the right mindset: “Hot Ted Bundy” is rife with problems. Maybe it’s time for Hollywood to stop obsessing over violent, abusive, and predatory men.

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Ana Valens

Ana Valens

Ana Valens is a reporter specializing in online queer communities, marginalized identities, and adult content creation. She is Daily Dot's Trans/Sex columnist. Her work has appeared at Vice, Vox, Truthout, Bitch Media, Kill Screen, Rolling Stone, and the Toast. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and spends her free time developing queer adult games.