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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.
imagine you had a daughter that was raped before being murdered and then 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 https://t.co/zi6KH2KkRb— kit (@_kitto_) January 26, 2019
Many users were quick to agree with her response, criticizing the film for its depiction of Bundy.
stop 👏 romanticizing 👏 violent 👏men 👏👏👏 https://t.co/mKRpcuk2RP— 🖤Booca🖤 @ tired 💙🦁 (@rfarrowster) January 27, 2019
Now imagine that happened at least thirty times https://t.co/nflGiShEW6— Lindsay Ellis (@thelindsayellis) January 27, 2019
What gets me is he would have loveddd that there’s a big Hollywood movie being made about him. With how much he spoke about himself, this is exactly what he would have wanted. Just doesn’t feel right.— M 👻 (@TooManyHiccups) January 27, 2019
Awarwness or not, they could have shifted the perspective or edited it differently than portrayed here. Him being charming as a selling point is pretty gross.— тυмвкє ωιтн ιυv (@tumbke) January 27, 2019
the ppl saying you don't get it are ignoring the point. who gives AF if Bundy was actually like this...why tf are we still making movies about that little bitch?— cj (@camjamesraps) January 27, 2019
he was executed. no actor should be paid to depict him and introduce him to a new generation.
FUCKING. PREACH. the last thing we need right now is a movie sensationalizing a man who brutally kills women. this week ALONE a man literally murdered five women because he hates women. we don't need to glorify these horrible people, stop fetishizing serial killers 2k19 https://t.co/Zt7NYVXO0l— ✨ɯɐɥɓuıuunɔ uıɹǝʞ✨ ECCC Q9 (@KerinCunningham) January 27, 2019
dude, the mere fact that they cast zac efron when he looks nothing like bundy just SHOWS the intent was to romanticize the sucker. showing he was a “normal” dude who was well-liked in his community and portraying him as a “sexy devil” are two different things— my name rhymes with hoey (@TequilaSpleen) January 27, 2019
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.
Literally all they’re doing is showing him how EVERYONE saw him, and showing us how normal and “charming” they can be, anyone can do what he did and that’s what it’s showing, yes it gross and uncomfortable because we know now that he’s a sick monster, they didn’t:— María. (@BebeLiza_) January 27, 2019
It’s through Liz, his girlfriend’s perspective who believed that Ted was innocent. And so many people thought the same and the trailer is trying to show that.— 𝕷𝖎𝖘𝖆 𝖑𝖔𝖛𝖊𝖘 𝖅𝖆𝖈 𝖆𝖓𝖉 𝕿𝖆𝖞𝖑𝖔𝖗 🥰 (@theluckycnes) January 26, 2019
I doubt Ted Bundy would actually be humanized as a cool, impressive guy in the movie itself tho since the movie's director is regarded as an outstanding maker & producer of true crime documentaries... hopefully. https://t.co/q5KsDt3DVb— Cynosure (@CIiffire) January 28, 2019
to me, this trailer highlights the most terrifying thing about ted bundy: he was a true monster among us. A handsome, “charming” man with something so evil inside him, it should have radiated from him. but it didn’t. he was a wolf in sheep’s clothing that viciously hunted women. https://t.co/Q7y8Kk7fbd— Mal Pal (@malloryrr96) January 28, 2019
Ok, are people mad he’s been romanticised or the fact a film had been made about him period? I just want clarity, because multiple serial killers have had films made about them and their victims...— Jessica 👽 (@JessMcgiffen) January 28, 2019
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.
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.