Most serial killers aren’t sexualized. But most serial killers aren’t Ted Bundy.
The infamous killer has reentered the zeitgeist. This week, Voltage Pictures dropped the trailer for Extremely Wicked, Shocking Evil and Vile, a feature film starring High School Musical’s Zac Efron as Bundy. And that’s only half of Bundy’s new media footprint. Just a day before the trailer debuted, Netflix released The Ted Bundy Tapes, a four-episode documentary series featuring unreleased interviews with the actual Bundy.
The one-two punch of Bundy content also reignited an old debate for the internet hot take era: Is Ted Bundy hot?
Before we wade into the topic, let’s pause to remember that Ted Bundy is a monster who kidnapped, raped and murdered girls as young as 12. OK. Now let’s talk about how Twitter’s acting real thirsty for him all of a sudden.
The thirst seems over the top until you watch the Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile trailer. Synopses describe the movie as Ted Bundy’s story of guilt and denial told through the eyes of his longtime girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer. But the trailer doesn’t make the distinction of her perspective all that clear. Viewers just see Efron looking characteristically hot, smiling and smooth talking his way out of trouble.
The trailer doesn’t entirely ignore Bundy’s murders. There’s a brief glimpse of him swinging a crowbar at a woman’s head in broad daylight and his famous thousand-yard stare. Still, it’s obvious that the movie aims to sexualize one of America’s most notorious serial killers. The exaggeration of Bundy’s hotness establishes Kloepfer as oblivious to the monster she shared a bed with. But it feels creepy watching People magazine’s 2017 “Sexiest Man Alive” play a pretty average looking serial murderer.
The Ted Bundy Tapes also spent the requisite amount of time establishing Bundy as an attractive guy, featuring several flattering pictures from his youth. It might have done too good of a job, though. By Monday, Netflix’s Twitter account posted some bizarre Bundy hotness damage control.
I've seen a lot of talk about Ted Bundy’s alleged hotness and would like to gently remind everyone that there are literally THOUSANDS of hot men on the service — almost all of whom are not convicted serial murderers
— Netflix (@netflix) January 28, 2019
“Ted Bundy is hot” is the kind of glib opinion that briefly seems everywhere on the internet before being quickly forgotten. But debating Bundy’s hotness is more than just internet shitposting. It’s a way people cope with the disturbing reality underneath our decades-long obsession with Bundy’s crimes.
As The Ted Bundy Tapes highlight, Bundy became an news celebrity not just through murder, but the way he dealt with it publicly. He spoke with the press regularly and turned on all the charm he had each time. He insisted he was innocent until the end despite mountains of evidence. He defended himself in court and made people openly question how someone so relatable could be a ruthless murderer.
Pop culture has fetishized affable serial killers like Hannibal Lecter and Dexter Morgan for years. The difference is Ted Bundy and the people he killed are real. And it turns out we’re just as riveted and disturbed by that now as ever.