Bundy is back and creating controversy
Sam Fix—Layout Editor
“Ted was the very definition of heartless evil,” said Polly Nelson, Ted Bundy’s defense attorney for three years. Bundy was executed on January 24th, 1989 for the murders of at least 30 young women over a four-year span. Now, 30 years after his death, Bundy is back in the spotlight thanks to filmmaker Joe Berlinger.
The first of Berlinger’s two projects, “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes,” is a four hour Netflix series which centers around interviews of Ted Bundy and those who knew him. They also analyze his victims and the archival footage throughout the show.
The “tapes” the series refers to consist of about 100 hours of recorded interviews between Bundy and journalists Hugh Aynesworth and Stephen Michaud while Bundy was on death row. Bundy talks about his upbringing and life, as well as his crimes in the third person to avoid confessing.
This footage does give valuable insight as to why a serial killer would murder. However, it also allows Bundy to explain himself the way he wants to, and to give excuses for his crimes. Michaud addresses this early in the series, saying, “I was there to take down Ted’s story. The story that he wanted to tell.”
Noah Jackson, a junior, English and secondary education, says footage like this has to be contextualized correctly to avoid giving unnecessary power to killers.
“If it’s presented as a way of showing how monsters don’t usually have any moral compunctions about their crimes, or how they always have excuses, it can be pretty fascinating material that tells the viewer something about how terrible people work,” Jackson said. “If the footage is presented sympathetically, though, and if the statements are being shown as being valid and acceptable excuses, then it gets very problematic.”
While “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” did draw criticism, it cannot be argued that the archival footage and interviews falsely portray Bundy. Yet, Berlinger’s second project, the film “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” is being accused of romanticizing Bundy, as the killer is played by ex-Disney actor Zac Efron.
Opponents of the film argue that scenes like Efron saying, “I’m more popular than Disney World” glorify Bundy, turning a real life horror story into a romantic thriller. In addition, some say Efron is too charming and attractive to play a monster like Bundy.
However, the real Bundy was known for being charismatic and manipulative, and used his charm to lure his victims and hide his murderous side from others.
After sentencing Bundy to be executed, Judge Edward Cowart told him, “You’re a bright young man. You would have made a good lawyer and I would have loved to have you practice in front of me, but you went another way, partner. Take care of yourself. I don’t feel any animosity toward you. I just want you to know that. Once again, take care of yourself.”
Forgetting that killers and other criminals can seem normal and even likeable can be dangerous, as it makes it easier for them to attract their victims. Berlinger defended the movie, saying, “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.”
Between being the first nationally televised court trial and having hundreds of revelers cheering and lighting fireworks across the street from the prison during his execution, Bundy and others like him have always been a prominent part of the American culture. Thirty years after his death, Bundy is once again a popular topic in the media and discussions. Whether that is positive or negative is still to be determined.