Since its release, the trailer of the movie Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile has received a lot of backlash for Zac Efron’s portrayal of Ted Bundy - one of America’s, nay, the world’s most prolific serial killers.
Bundy was known to draw in women with his charm and wit, after which he would go on to gruesomely murder and/or rape them. With a body count of over 30 women, Bundy became grossly infamous in the US in the 80s. Therefore, it’s no surprise that there have been several movies, books as well as TV shows based on his life.
Hollywood’s obsession with serial killers is not a new phenomenon. From movies like Zodiac and My Friend Dahmer to TV series like Dexter and Mindhunter, serial killers have received more than adequate representation in popular culture. So, why the sudden uproar against this particular movie?
Many feel that the problem is not with the idea of telling Ted Bundy’s story, but with the way in which it is told - more specifically, the way in which he is portrayed. Zac Efron plays the devilishly handsome and smooth-talking Bundy while Lily Collins plays his unsuspecting and devoted wife. The trailer gives off the impression that women simply could not help themselves around him, which is not too hard to believe when the man in question is Zac Efron, but, it’s hard to look at a psychopathic serial killer in the same way. Moreover, many moviegoers feel that such a portrayal of the notorious murderer and rapist is, if not anything else, highly insensitive towards the families of his victims.
On the other hand, makers of the movie feel that Zac Efron’s portrayal of Ted Bundy is an attempt to give viewers a realistic idea of how the serial killer committed his crimes. Bundy may have been a ruthless and despicable human being who murdered several young women, but he also managed to remain undetected for a very long time, all the while maintaining an extremely normal and loving family life.
Much of what he did would have been impossible without his charm and good looks, as could be gauged from the fact that during his trial, many young women came out in his support, and he even had several groupies who wrote letters to him in prison.
Hollywood’s obsession with serial killers probably stems out of the fact that the minds of people like Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer work in ways that are absolutely and fundamentally different from the ways in which mine or yours does. Although their minds may work in anything but an ideal manner, it is sure intriguing to study their lives. While many try to do so by taking up subjects like criminology and behavioural sciences, others fulfil their urge to understand what induces the need to commit such crimes by watching movies based on the same.
To conclude, whether the movie glorifies Ted Bundy or not can only be verified once the movie is released, but, until then, all I can say is that Zac Efron’s portrayal of Ted Bundy definitely sent chills down my spine.