Portraying Ted Bundy


Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile is a newly-released film starring Zac Efron as Ted Bundy, the real-life psychopathic serial killer, rapist, necrophiliac, kidnapper and burglar who claimed 30 confirmed victims in a gruesome frenzy between 1974 and 1978. Many critics considered Efron to be a poor casting choice. Is it romanticizing psychopathy to cast an attractive, charismatic, well-loved actor for the role of such a monster?

The problem with this criticism is that it neglects to factor in the way that everyone around Ted Bundy perceived him. He was a member of his church and a volunteer for a suicide hotline, for instance Bundy was a man seen as a charitable, kind functioning member of society by many, including his wife. That was one of the ways in which he was able to get away with so many murders for so long, along with a talent for minimizing physical evidence and a very opportunistic eye. People in Bundy’s community vouched for him, a she knew exactly how to utilize his charisma and looks to his advantage.

To some, this movie may have ended up teetering on the edge of glamorization in an attempt to convey Bundy’s manipulative charm. The trailer features zoom-in shots of Efron winking, comforting babies, passionately kissing women, etc. The way to portray Ted Bundy responsibly is to find a balance between his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde sides, so to speak. In other words, the portrayal needs to show the seemingly lovable, handsome, established side as well as the morbid, ravenous, predatory side.

Being able to view Bundy from both perspectives allows the viewer to understand how psychopaths operate and how Bundy was loved by countless people throughout his life, especially the types of women he exploited and victimized.