In an interview with YOU star Penn Badgley, the actor discussed with us the curious reception of some fans who admitted they were attracted to his character, psycho-stalker and murderer Joe Goldberg. “It’s been proven time and time again that charming, powerful, white men are capable of [doing] really awful things. And we’re also often willing to sort of forgive them almost every step of the way,” he said.
Perhaps an eerie coincidence, one of the most popular shows in Netflix today is Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes. Directed by Joe Berlinger, it is a docuseries about one of the most notorious killers in America. Ted Bundy was imprisoned and sent to death row for the rape and murder of 36 women, although many believe his victim count is close to a hundred. Aside from the extremely grotesque nature of his killings, one reason why his case got so much attention was because he he was a charming, attractive young man. Furthermore, a clean-cut law student with no prior adult criminal record, he certainly wasn’t anyone’s first notion of a killer.
To this day, Ted Bundy’s story continues to fascinate the public. In fact, aside from this documentary, his chilling tale has already been adapted into numerous movies. The latest of which is Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, slated to be released this year.
Over the weekend, its first trailer, starring Zac Efron as Ted Bundy, was released. Though it shares the same director, in contrast to the Netflix series, the film focuses on Ted’s story told largely in the perspective of Ted’s ex-fiancé Elizabeth Kloepfer, played by Lily Collins.
The trailer has since received mixed reactions from netizens. There are those who say that it is upsetting and deeply disrespectful for the families and friends of the victims, as it seems to glorify and romanticize the serial killer.
That's exactly what Ted Bundy wanted. posthumous fame for his cruelties. You can count on Hollywood to make the worst human beings immortal.What's next?The Harvey Weinstein biopic?What a punch to the face for the victim's families after all these years #ZacEfron #ExtremelyWicked pic.twitter.com/vgPCqHexmD
— Shiroshika (@iamshiroshika) January 25, 2019
the ted bundy doc already bringing the serial killer stans as if this won’t get worse once his movie starring zac efron gets release pic.twitter.com/k56qHZHPpA
— karla (@yvonestrahovski) January 25, 2019
It's the same thing they did with Jeffrey Dahmer….romanticizing white Male serial killers
— ???, ?? (@MendoMsutu) January 26, 2019
Can we not sexulize Ted Bundy?
He raped, murdered, and decapitated women and had sex with their dead bodies. Not here for this hyper-sexualized Zac Efron film.
I know the youth of twitter will obsess over him, and I’d prefer not to read thirst tweets about a serial murderer
— Kayla Stetzel (@KaylaStetzel) January 26, 2019
Yet, others argue Zac perfectly captures Ted’s charm and they can’t wait for the film to come out. Interestingly, one user admitted, “I’m not emotionally prepared to be so attracted to Ted Bundy.”
I have mixed feelings about @ZacEfron playing Ted Bundy. Like I’m really excited to see him slay this role but I’m not emotionally prepared to be so attracted to Ted Bundy ??
— Nikki (@Ding_Gorgeous) January 25, 2019
Zac Efron as Ted Bundy is kinda perfect casting cause you can't believe that he could possibly play a terrifying serial killer in the same way that you couldn't have looked at Ted Bundy and believed that he *was* a terrifying serial killer. https://t.co/kew3IpkvVf
— John Squires (@FreddyInSpace) January 25, 2019
Zac Efron was perfect for this role. Ted was attractive, intelligent, and smooth as fuck. That’s how he got the attention of the women he killed. This story is REAL. There were women who sent him love letters AFTER HE WAS CONVICTED. Women need to be aware of who they’re trusting. https://t.co/zBBWs51fK1
— Rae? (@texasandtequila) January 27, 2019
It seems this was all intentional in the director’s part. In an interview with Variety, Joe admitted he was drawn to the idea of casting Zac because “it played against his likeable persona.” He said, “He has 37 million followers on Instagram and he’s one of the main heartthrobs for a certain age of young female. Because Bundy’s character is so wrapped up in his sex appeal and charm, I loved the idea of subverting Zac’s sex appeal and charm.”
In the same interview, Zac revealed that just like Penn Badgley, he too “had reservations about playing a serial killer.” He further told the publication that “This movie was really about a human being, somebody that perhaps I would have been friends with.” He even admitted, “Something clicked pretty early on, and it was kind of scary. It was that Ted and I had quite a bit in common in the way we carried ourselves. There are a few mannerisms. You can tell he’s a bit bashful. He’s kind of shy. He’s a well-spoken guy, but he hides his anxiety with a bit of a smile. I didn’t want to do too much of an impersonation.”
As part of his research, Zac revealed he spent some time talking to people who knew Bundy. Unsurprisingly, they mostly expressed shock, knowing someone so “strait-laced, pleasant, smart, smiling, calm individual was responsible for such horrendous, horrific crimes.” He said, “Even people in prison enjoyed their time with Ted Bundy.” This was truly one of the enigmas surrounding the killer. In fact, he was so charming that he still received hundreds of letters from female ‘groupies’ while on trial and in prison. What’s more, one woman, Carol Boone, willingly married him even as he was on trial for the kidnapping and murder of a 12-year-old.
Personally, I admit I’m one of those who see the trailer as off-putting. I too feel like Ted was glorified in a way. I get the intent of the director, and I honestly don’t have any problem with Zac being cast as Ted Bundy. But to me the trailer’s tone feels too light, considering we’re talking about a serial rapist and murderer here. I can’t imagine how the victim’s families are taking it. The fact that “serial killer stans” even exist is additionally disturbing.
If Ted Bundy really looked like Zac Efron I would have been one of the first ones killed
— Kate Cochran (@katecochrannn) January 27, 2019
so how do we break it to people that the romanticization of Ted Bundy has gone on since the 70s and that it's not a new concept invented by Zac Efron
— chelsea dawn (@chelsdawnf) January 27, 2019
To be fair, alot of people wanted to shag the real Ted Bundy too ?
— Jaimie (@jaimiescxtt) January 26, 2019
Still, I’m keeping an open mind. Hopefully the next trailers would give us a better idea of how the film will turn out. (I agree with most comments: The choice of music in the first trailer is awful.) After all, Zac promised he would not give us a poor excuse of a film. “I feel a responsibility to make sure that this movie is not a celebration of Ted Bundy. Or a glorification of him,” he said in the Variety interview. “But, definitely, a psychological study of who this person was. In that, there’s honesty.”
Art by Marian Hukom
For the latest in culture, fashion, beauty, and celebrities, subscribe to our weekly newsletter here
If you’re in love with Joe Goldberg, then you missed the point of YOU
This is why you can’t get enough of YOU
Kelsey Merritt and Zac Efron attend pilates together
SPOTTED: Kelsey Merritt (and a crab) hanging out with Zac Efron