Ted Bundy continues to be a source of controversy


Thirty years after his execution, serial killer Ted Bundy continues to attract attention from both critics and oddly enough, fans.

Earlier this month, streaming service Netflix began airing a documentary that focuses on lengthy recorded interviews with Bundy. Graphic footage of victims’ remains along with home movies and stills of Bundy as a child, teen and adult are interspersed between the scenes of Bundy researchers and law enforcement discussing how they met Bundy and their process for either trying to catch Bundy or make him speak honestly about his crimes.

In the process of showing viewers more than they might logically want to know about the serial killer, something surprising happened – – people have developed romantic interest in Bundy. As a result, Netflix has issued a statement warning viewers not to romanticize the killer.

The response from viewers is surprising.  First, Bundy has been deceased for 30 years. Second, there is little question as to his guilt, and third, and perhaps most importantly, the crimes he was accused of and ultimately found guilty of were heinous. To overlook all of those elements in order to paint an innocent and romantic picture of Bundy is highly problematic.

Fear and the story of Ted Bundy

Before “Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” began to stream,  the buzz surrounding it involved a warning not to watch it alone. That seemed appropriate enough given the graphic content.

Some media critics have called into question the number of times positive attributes such as “handsome” and “well-spoken” are used to describe Bundy in Netflix’s documentary. The repetition of such words like “handsome”, critics like the one at The Guardian have pointed out, have affected some viewers’ ability to see Bundy for what he was. Some “fans” have gone so far as to make memes on describing how “hot” Bundy is. The memes are troubling to say the least.

The larger picture, The Guardian article explains is the idea of privilege related to looks. Because Bundy does not “look” as though he would hurt people he is absolved in some people’s minds. Instead of being scared of the serial killer’s prolific crimes, Bundy’s new “fans” are overlooking them, or worse, thinking it would be the stuff of fantasy to be hurt by him.

New movie about Ted Bundy stars Zac Efron, sparks controversy

While the idea of Bundy’s “hotness” is not a problem for some members of the public, there are others who have a problem with his being portrayed by Zac Efron. Television news outlets yesterday reported that some people think Efron is “too hot” to portray Bundy. Unfortunately,  there are some similarities between the actor and the late serial killer.

Essentially, Netflix’s “Conversations With a Killer” is horrifying. If audiences pay attention to the details of Bundy’s crimes, what he looked like will not matter at all.


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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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