Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile. These were the words used to describe the horrific acts of notorious Ted Bundy by the judge as he sentenced him to death for his crimes. It is also the name of a recent Netflix film starring Zac Efron as the serial killer. Due to its subject matter, the film has been subjected to numerous criticisms, some of which came out before it was even released.
But the biggest complaint I have seen by far is that it does not focus enough on the crimes of Bundy. Instead, it focuses on him as a person, such as his relationship with Elizabeth Kloepfer. People insist his most important character trait was that fact that he was a serial killer, and that by not focusing on that, the movie is “glorifying” Ted Bundy.
While I can understand that point of view, I’m here to say that is a load of crap. This movie does not glorify Ted Bundy at all. Here’s why.
This movie isn’t really even about him.
This movie is not about Ted Bundy. It is about Elizabeth Kloepfer, his longtime girlfriend. The story starts with her going out for the first time in months and meeting Ted, and ends with her confronting Ted Bundy on death row. Everything in between is about her, also. It’s about her relationship with Bundy, and her internal struggle she faced over many years trying to come to terms with what the man she loved truly was. It shows the very real implications he had in her life.
The movie focuses on Bundy for some plot points that need to be shown, such as his two escapes, but the rest is focused on the implications of Bundy’s actions on another person – which is what people wanted. People don’t want to glorify Ted Bundy.
And they haven’t.
They merely showed two Ted Bundys – the one Elizabeth knew and fell in love with, and the true Ted Bundy. The true Ted Bundy is shown in court when the prosecutor explains the shocking evidence and grisly crimes committed on each woman.
Ted Bundy was charming. It’s the truth.
Another complaint is that the hunky and charming Zac Efron should not be playing a character like Ted Bundy.
But, here’s the thing. He was, by all accounts of many people, very charming and good looking. Rewriting history by trying to make him into somebody ugly is counterproductive and not honest. It was because of his charm and charisma that he was able to get away with as many crimes as he did. He had a way of making women trust him.
And guess what? The fact that he is portrayed this way is not a bad thing.
People don’t want to admit it, but not all serial killers are swamp creatures with no social skills. The signs aren’t always right there under our noses. Perhaps by trying to paint the image of all serial killers with the same brush, we are trying to trick ourselves into believing we are safer since we can recognize them.
But the fact is, most serial killers are average people that live seemingly normal and average lives. Most of the time, we don’t see the signs until it’s too late.
The crimes themselves are not what is most important about telling Bundy’s story.
Before you get mad at this line, think about it. When there is a school shooting, what do we always say? Don’t give any glory to the shooter, and only focus on the victims. Like I said before, that’s exactly what this movie does. This movie shows Elizabeth’s life crumble because of Ted. It shows her struggle to move on with her life, and to come to terms with what he did.
One might even argue that yet another serial killer movie rehashing what we already know they did is actually harmful. Going in detail and showing imagery of the shocking things Bundy did would be traumatic for some viewers, and won’t add anything new to the conversation. It certainly doesn’t do the victims any justice either, if all we focus on is the last seconds of their lives.
Extremely Wicked does a fantastic job of both showing the effects of his actions on Elizabeth, and acknowledging the acts themselves for what they were: extremely wicked, shockingly evil, and vile. But it definitely, 100%, does not glorify Ted Bundy.