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Zac Efron as Ted Bundy: a step too far for the True Crime genre?

Written by Featured, Film, Latest

We have always been obsessed by serial killers.

It’s one of those strange universal facts of life. Our fascination with them is woven into society, from learning about Jack the Ripper in high school history classes to a whole genre of true crime branded as evening entertainment.

There’s no denying that there is something morbidly interesting about these stories. However, the upcoming Ted Bundy biopic staring none other than high school musicals Zac Efron could mark a dangerous turning point in our interest in the serial killer phenomenon.

Throughout this trailer we are fed the impression of him as a sexy, confident, clever, desirable family man, who might have also happened to have killed some women. But shockingly wicked, evil and vile? I’m not so sure.

The trailer to Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile opens as though it could be a romantic comedy. I get this. I get it. its supposed to convey how Klopfer was so encapsulated by Bundy’s love that she couldn’t see who he really was. However. it also romanticizes him and their relationship.

In the trailer Lily Collins recites a half-finished quote from Klopfers book: “when I feel his love, I feel like I’m ontop of the world”, missing out the other half: “when I felt nothing from Ted, I felt that I was nothing.” From the trailer you get the impression that despite Ted’s ‘dark side’, his relationship with Klopfer is passionate and caring, rather the abusive and co-dependent one detailed in her own biography and in this full quote.

One of the other things that really bugs me is the throwaway line “what is it about this guy?” As if none of us, even the women in the film, really understand his complexity depth and allure. That somehow Bundy is bigger than all of us, rather than just a well-educated white man with influence and power that our society reveres.

The trailer also undermines any sense of complexity by continuing with the same upbeat rock and roll soundtrack throughout the whole god damn thing, overlaid with graphic blockbuster style graphics that proudly detail ‘ZAC EFRON as TED BUNDY.’ As if this is somehow the revered role of a lifetime and this is some kind of exhilarating tongue and cheek action movie.

What to me is most disturbing about this so called biopic of Bundy’s life is that had the man himself been alive to see this trailer, he would have been so proud of how he was being remembered.

People may argue this trailer is supposed to ironically paint him in the positive light in which others saw him, but what is the point in this if we don’t highlight how misguided and fundamentally wrong that interpretation was. Nowhere is his appeal undermined in the trailer. Sure, we get a few very brief glimpses of Efron about to hit a woman over the head and dragging a body into the woods, but the true atrocity of this man’s crimes is never fully juxtaposed against his outward appeal.

There is no direct mention of Ted’s Victims, no respect for those who suffered at his hands, instead the trailer sacrifices conveying the impact of the crimes he committed in the name of creating a vibrant, entertaining aura of light hearted intrigue. We even get a glimpse of Efrons Hollywood abbs for crying out loud, something Bundy never even possessed.

In actual fact Bundy was not a Hollywood sex icon, he was a necrophiliac, a rapist a murderer, a sociopath. Throughout this trailer we are fed the impression of him as a sexy, confident, clever, desirable family man, who might have also happened to have killed some women. But shockingly wicked, evil and vile? I’m not so sure.

Even if the trailer had on any level managed to give the impression of this man as the awful human being that he was, it then has the audacity to finish on a tongue and cheek reference to Ted’s escape from custody. The final clip of him jumping from the second floor of the courthouse can’t help but feel like the joke ending to said initial rom com trailer. Meant to draw you in and make you want to see more of his clever ‘hijinks’ and seemingly glossing over the fact that during one of these escapes he murdered and assaulted 5 women.

What to me is most disturbing about this so called biopic of Bundy’s life is that had the man himself been alive to see this trailer, he would have been so proud of how he was being remembered and who he had become in the public eye – a romanticised figure of white masculinity, rather than the cowardly snake who preyed upon vulnerable women and got away with it because of the privilege that the society he lived in afforded him.

Last modified: 7th March 2019

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