"You know he’s evil, but the camera sure doesn’t."
February 5, 2019 12:59 PM   Subscribe

“If you actually watch the movie, the last thing we’re doing is glorifying him,” Berlinger claimed in an interview with Bustle. “He gets his due at the end, but we’re portraying the experience of how one becomes a victim to that kind of psychopathic seduction.”

It’s a nice thought, but that’s not what the film does. Liz’s experience isn’t the same as ours out in the audience — we know who this guy is from the start — and so we’re just watching a duped woman get more duped […] At most, we learn that it really, really sucks when your handsome and attentive fiancé turns out to be the century’s most famous and heinous serial killer.
The Ted Bundy movie starring Zac Efron sure does love Ted Bundy [Alissa Wilkinson, Vox]
posted by Atom Eyes (41 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
I am avoiding watching this show. I remember seeing the news reports about Bundy and decided I didn't need to know anymore about this subject than I already did. Horrific.
posted by Gwynarra at 1:13 PM on February 5 [15 favorites]


Did Ted Bundy hire Tom Cruise's PR team? There seems to be a major celebrity PR push going on.
posted by srboisvert at 1:14 PM on February 5 [5 favorites]


The whole thing sounds repulsive.

In contrast, Nick Broomfield's Tales of the Grim Sleeper documents the activities of a serial killer who operated practically in plain sight in Los Angeles. Instead of trying to understand the psyche of the serial killer, the documentary examines why he was able to operate with impunity, and it's largely because he targeted women who had been discarded by society. The film has a lot of lessons for Canada, where at least two women and girls are murdered every day.
posted by JamesBay at 1:16 PM on February 5 [19 favorites]


“If you actually watch the movie, the last thing we’re doing is glorifying him,”

Another review of either this or the documentary I can't find at the moment pointed out that most people (including myself) would be hard-pressed to name even one of Bundy's victims, but everyone knows who he is.

Of the women who flocked to his trial, some even dressed up as his victims, who all fit a similar physical profile: long hair parted in the middle, wearing hoop earrings.

That is indeed super fucked-up and an examination of young women’s fascination with serial killers would have made for far more interesting subject matter than "OMG this handsome dude was a serial killer isnt that wild???"
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:21 PM on February 5 [21 favorites]


Wilkinson is confusing a movie with a religious tract. I think she’s a very unsophisticated critic. The audience doesn’t need to be hit over the head by the filmmaker. We get it—Ted Bundy is bad.
Bloomfield’s film is a documentary, not a work of fiction.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:21 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]


Ephron is now the seventh actor to play Bundy in a movie. Do we really need this film?
posted by octothorpe at 1:24 PM on February 5 [31 favorites]


Wilkinson is confusing a movie with a religious tract. I think she’s a very unsophisticated critic.

Well, tell us, oh epitome of sophistication, what is the profound insight and value of this movie that Wilkinson missed?
posted by misfish at 1:31 PM on February 5 [22 favorites]




Bloomfield’s film is a documentary

Documentaries are normally informed by some editorial, if not openly didactic, stance. Wilkinson is analyzing the editorial choices she that sees undergirding the Bundy documentary.
posted by salt grass at 1:46 PM on February 5 [7 favorites]


Wilkinson is analysing the narrative film, she only spends a paragraph on the failings of the documentary.
posted by misfish at 1:50 PM on February 5 [4 favorites]


Thinking about it more, I have a hard time characterizing Extremely Wicked as a documentary--it's a dramatization of events that happened, with all the additional interpretational license that that would entail.
posted by salt grass at 1:52 PM on February 5


Another review of either this or the documentary I can't find at the moment pointed out that most people (including myself) would be hard-pressed to name even one of Bundy's victims, but everyone knows who he is.

To be fair (and yes, this is sad), you can probably say that about just about every serial killer, from Jack the Ripper to the modern day mass shooters. (Okay, granted Jack the Ripper is the 'nickname' instead of the actual name, but still....)
posted by gtrwolf at 2:00 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


The director of the film also directed a documentary based on interviews with Bundy, which has been released on Netflix ahead of the narrative film starring Zac Ephron, which will be released on Netflix later in the year.
posted by misfish at 2:01 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Bloomfield’s film is a documentary

Documentaries are normally informed by some editorial, if not openly didactic, stance. Wilkinson is analyzing the editorial choices she that sees undergirding the Bundy documentary.


I think some conversational lines have crossed here.

Bloomfield's documentary is mentioned in JamesBay's comment. The article is about Joe Berlinger's film as well as Berlinger's documentary.
posted by rewil at 2:03 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


There are always going to be these movies...because a lot of people see the rape and murder of women as great entertainment.
posted by agregoli at 2:04 PM on February 5 [29 favorites]


Just as a datapoint, until these movies came out, I was not really clear who Bundy was. It was one of those names that I had heard but my best guess probably would have been that he was the Oklahoma City bomber.

As a result of this article I learned two women's names, but I doubt I will remember them. In fact I already forgot Elizabeth's last name.

So it is certainly possible that these movies are increasing Bundy's profile.
posted by Emmy Rae at 2:07 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


And to be extra clear, I haven't even watched any of the films, nor do I plan to.
posted by Emmy Rae at 2:09 PM on February 5


I am reminded of a quote from the late Pauline Kael: "At the movies, we are gradually being conditioned to accept violence as a sensual pleasure. The directors used to say they were showing us its real face and how ugly it was in order to sensitize us to its horrors. You don't have to be very keen to see that they are now in fact desensitizing us." Even when it is justified to tell the story, I find myself less and less able to stomach violence in fiction.

I remember the 1986 TV movie where Mark Harmon (in his dreamier days) played Bundy and my mother explaining that his charm helped him do what he did. I was 9 and it made an impression on me about the creeps not always looking scary.
posted by soelo at 2:37 PM on February 5 [22 favorites]


Before we get too far down the "all interest in true crime is bad and you should feel bad" road, a lot of true crime podcasts and books are produced by and largely for women. Anecdotally, I see a lot of evidence for this being a coping strategy for the anxiety produced by the constant low level thrumming of the anxiety of living in a society where any random dude who says hi to you on the street might follow you home and kill you.
posted by soren_lorensen at 2:55 PM on February 5 [42 favorites]


Another review of either this or the documentary I can't find at the moment pointed out that most people (including myself) would be hard-pressed to name even one of Bundy's victims, but everyone knows who he is.

To be fair (and yes, this is sad), you can probably say that about just about every serial killer, from Jack the Ripper to the modern day mass shooters. (Okay, granted Jack the Ripper is the 'nickname' instead of the actual name, but still....)


I think there's been a shift from how society viewed serial killers from years past and how modern day mass shooters are viewed, in that society used to know the serial killers' names/nicknames, but with modern mass shooters, (for a number of reasons) we oftentimes don't their names of the top of our heads, we know them by the location/type of building (the Columbine high school shooters, the guy who shot up a Philadelphia synagogue, the guy who shoot up a Texas church, etc).
posted by 23skidoo at 2:58 PM on February 5 [6 favorites]


And I love true crime, and yet, I hate this sort of thing. I don't watch things like The Killer Speaks, I don't read books killers write, I don't CARE to hear the killer's point of view. I think there is a limited value to this -- for actual professionals, who are actually interviewing these people, to learn how to prevent these horrible crimes. I don't take any entertainment from it being packaged for the public. I prefer to hear about the victims and hear from victims' advocates. I can already tell this latest Ted Bundy thing is not for me.
posted by fiercecupcake at 3:01 PM on February 5 [7 favorites]


To soren_lorensen's point: having worked many years at a bookstore, I can confirm that the true crime section was just as popular with women as it was with men (if not, more so) and I'll also add that the three biggest connoisseurs of the genre among my fellow booksellers were all women.
posted by Atom Eyes at 3:04 PM on February 5 [4 favorites]


Before we get too far down the "all interest in true crime is bad and you should feel bad" road, a lot of true crime podcasts and books are produced by and largely for women. Anecdotally, I see a lot of evidence for this being a coping strategy for the anxiety produced by the constant low level thrumming of the anxiety of living in a society where any random dude who says hi to you on the street might follow you home and kill you.

Mmmmhm. This. There's a lot of "but if I focus very carefully on the people who go on to become predators, I might be able to work out how to protect myself in the future." There's a not-so-surprising amount of crossover with, say, people who are very interested in abusive dynamics and how to avoid them, too.

But I often find that this viewpoint is not necessarily great for de-lionizing the killers, because the fear-motivation fixation can sometimes be fed by... making the killer or abuser larger than life, and therefore more fearful to observe. And that has knock-on effects, particularly on the true crime aficionados who are coming from a horror identification-with-the-monster context, which is generally fine but in a few deeply unfortunate cases, really really not...

The main alternative I see to this for true crime aficionados is actually true crime humor podcasts, like the Last Podcast on the Left or All Killa No Filla, which do the same kind of dissecting how someone got to where they are that feeds that satisfying "figuring out how to identify and understand terrible things" itch, but at the same time mock the killers and generally point out the ridiculous or asinine things that they do, discuss the "less dead," and actively attempt to frame things in a way that is not sympathetic to the killers in mind.

From everything I have heard about this documentary, this is the complete opposite of that. I'm not thrilled with it, and may or may not bother to watch it. What new information is it bringing to light? What new things does this documentary have to say, aside from "Ted Bundy would like some attention again?"
posted by sciatrix at 3:09 PM on February 5 [16 favorites]


but with modern mass shooters, (for a number of reasons) we oftentimes don't their names of the top of our heads, we know them by the location/type of building (the Columbine high school shooters, the guy who shot up a Philadelphia synagogue, the guy who shoot up a Texas church, etc).

I believe this was a conscious decision on the part of news organizations, so as to give the shooters less notoriety/fame.

I wish Hollywood would follow suit.
posted by gwint at 3:29 PM on February 5 [7 favorites]


Before we get too far down the "all interest in true crime is bad and you should feel bad"
Not all true crime is created equal, like any genre, and plenty of it is loving depictions of violence against women, and sympathy or powerful imagery of the strength of the killer. That this is true has no bearing on whether there are also plenty of good treatments of it, and whether people are allowed to enjoy it or not. It's pretty clear all kinds of people enjoy it, it's a popular genre.
posted by agregoli at 3:30 PM on February 5 [8 favorites]


Ted Bundy died in 1989, in Florida. He's probably not trying to rehabilitate his image, or to get back into the news again.

Zac Efron, maybe.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 3:35 PM on February 5 [8 favorites]


Last week I thought about making an FPP of perspectives from serial killer survivors, but decided doing so would probably be detrimental to my health. But the article that inspired that idea is powerful and well-worth reading, even if you don't care about the recent spate of Bundymania, so here it is:

Ted Bundy's Living Victim Tells Her Story, by Tori Telfer. At the end of the day, [Kathy Kleiner Rubin] was a bigger part of his life than he was of hers. Bundy's story is, at its core, the story of Kathy, Karen, Lisa and Margaret, and all the other young women he attacked and killed ... But Kleiner's life is so much more than the tale of a girl who survived a serial killer.

Also by Telfer, from last year: Why is Ted Bundy Suddenly Everywhere?
By Ashley Alese Edwards on Refinery29: Ted Bundy Wasn't Special or Smart. He Was Just White.

The self-perpetuating myth of Ted Bundy the charming killer mastermind is infuriating (not least because he would love it). That he was able to get a number of women alone by pretending to need their help says less about his brilliance than it does the way women are socialized to be compliant and accommodating to men, especially white middle-class men, even if it means ignoring their instincts and making themselves vulnerable. He was reported to the police as a possible suspect by four separate people in 1974, but shunted down the priority list because he was a law student with no criminal record. He lived in an era before cell phones, DNA testing, or good coordination between police departments across state lines. But I guess acknowledging that the system favored the murderer and not the victims would hold a lot more people accountable than just Bundy, so...Mark Harmon/Cary Elwes/Zac Efron it is!

To Wilkinson's alternate options, I'd add:
4. A film centering on the Chi Omega victims and survivors, with the climax being the trial
5. An adaptation of The Stranger Beside Me, the real life story of the crime writer who was hired to write about a series of unsolved murders only to find one of the prime suspects was her friend Ted.
Or my favorite, 6. Find something else to make a Sundance film about.
posted by bettafish at 4:14 PM on February 5 [33 favorites]


I remember the 1986 TV movie where Mark Harmon (in his dreamier days) played Bundy

Totally onboard about not needing more productions about atrocious horrible killers but this really calls for a supercut or really strange and disturbing NCIS backstory episode.
posted by sammyo at 5:09 PM on February 5 [5 favorites]


I read Ann Rule's STRANGER BESIDE ME when I was ten; at seven, I had been victim of a bad man who didn't look like a bad man, so I felt very, tragically close to the victims.

In my heart, since the 1980s, I have carried Georgann Hawkins. She was a student at University of Washington. She spent the evening at her boyfriend's dorm, just across the street from her sorority house. She left the dorm, and disappeared between one side of the street and the other. Her remains were never found.

I kept Georgann because she was the biggest mystery to me. One side of the street to the other. But I disappeared from my own back porch. The man who hurt me offered to show me something that feels good in the summer. The man that took Georgann's life wore a cast, and dropped his books, and pretended to need help.

He murdered her one year after I was born. And I will keep her until I die. I can't save any of them. But I can remember them. And maybe now, some of you will, too.
posted by headspace at 5:44 PM on February 5 [29 favorites]


I think she missed the entire rationale for making a film, misfish
“movie is crafted clearly admires its clever central figure, played by a good-looking A-lister.L
What was the director supposed to do—cast an ugly unknown hack, to make sure no one in the audience thought Ted Bundy was not a vile bad guy? Maybe they could have done a couple of lower-thirds to make sure everyone watching understood he was a serial killer? Or provided a handbook for the audience to follow along?
“We know next to nothing about her apart from him. She disappears for whole sections of the film”
Because the film is not about “Liz, Girl-friend of a Serial Killer”.
“we learn that it really, really sucks when your handsome and attentive fiancé turns out to be the century’s most famous and heinous serial killer.”
I can’t wait for her review of the Charles Manson film.
Wilkinson is an academic who really does not understand the way films work. She’s a good enough writer who wants stories to have a strong moral, so the audience learns a lesson at the end.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:16 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Because the film is not about “Liz, Girl-friend of a Serial Killer”.

This criticism of the piece doesn't make a lot of sense, considering the part you quoted is in a section described as "Here are three angles the film could have used that would have made it more worthwhile."

She’s a good enough writer who wants stories to have a strong moral, so the audience learns a lesson at the end.

It seems pretty clear that she isn't suggesting the movie hit you over the head with a life lesson. For example: "it’s also just so profoundly lacking in any insight that it’s hard to believe it was greenlit in an era like ours." And "There are plenty of ways the well-worn story of Ted Bundy could be retold with purpose and intelligence." Her point, to me, is a very straightforward one: if you have nothing fresh to say, why make a movie about something which is already extremely well known?
posted by Emmy Rae at 7:35 PM on February 5 [18 favorites]


Maybe the lesson here is similar to the adage about there being no such thing as an anti-war war film. I'm beginning to think that you can't make a two-reel profile of a narcissistic serial killer that doesn't by its very creation and existence glorify serial killing. I mean, if they weren't a serial killer, they wouldn't be getting a movie made about them. QED.

Having a famous movie star portray a mass murderer is not value-neutral, particularly when the actor chosen to portray the killer is 2017's "America's Sexiest Thrill-Seeker". I mean, come on. That's a definite (not to mention expensive) directorial choice.

Cf. Charlize Theron in Monster, where she played Aileen Wuornos. There, I think the both-sidesism is explicit and intentional (the movie is based largely on her unsuccessful defense at trial); questioning whether Wuornos really was a monster is, at least to my eye, kinda the point. It's not really even subtext, it's literally text—the movie has the word "monster" right there in the title. If that's what you're going for, focusing on the killer is effective. If it's not, maybe the movie really should be "Girlfriend of a Serial Killer".
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:57 PM on February 5 [15 favorites]


Spathe Cadet: Ted Bundy died in 1989, in Florida. He's probably not trying to rehabilitate his image, or to get back into the news again.

You just know that some TV executive has just shouted to their assistant that they should get this Ted Bundy guy under contract to do a reality show or Dancing With the Stars before some other network snaps him up.
posted by dr_dank at 8:58 PM on February 5 [6 favorites]


Bundy was born Theodore Robert Cowell on November 24, 1946, to Eleanor Louise Cowell (1924–2012; known as "Louise") at the Elizabeth Lund Home for Unwed Mothers[9] in Burlington, Vermont. His father's identity was never determined with any degree of certainty. His birth certificate assigned paternity to a salesman and Air Force veteran named Lloyd Marshall,[10] but Louise later claimed that she had been seduced by "a sailor"[11] whose name may have been Jack Worthington.[12] Years later, investigators would find no record of anyone by that name in Navy or Merchant Marine archives.[13] Some family members expressed suspicions that Bundy might have been fathered by Louise's own violent, abusive father, Samuel Cowell,[14] but no material evidence has ever been cited to support or refute this.[15]

For the first three years of his life, Bundy lived in the Philadelphia home of his maternal grandparents, Samuel and Eleanor Cowell, who raised him as their son to avoid the social stigma that accompanied birth outside of wedlock. Family, friends, and even young Ted were told that his grandparents were his parents and that his mother was his older sister. He eventually discovered the truth, although he had varied recollections of the circumstances. He told a girlfriend that a cousin showed him a copy of his birth certificate after calling him a "bastard,"[16] but he told biographers Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth that he found the certificate himself.[17] Biographer and true crime writer Ann Rule, who knew Bundy personally, believed that he did not find out until 1969, when he located his original birth record in Vermont.[18] Bundy expressed a lifelong resentment toward his mother for never talking to him about his real father, and for leaving him to discover his true parentage for himself.[19]

In some interviews, Bundy spoke warmly of his grandparents[20] and told Rule that he "identified with," "respected," and "clung to" his grandfather.[21] In 1987, however, he and other family members told attorneys that Samuel Cowell was a tyrannical bully and a bigot who hated blacks, Italians, Catholics, and Jews. Bundy's grandfather beat his wife and the family dog and swung neighborhood cats by their tails. He once threw Louise's younger sister Julia down a flight of stairs for oversleeping.[22] He sometimes spoke aloud to unseen presences,[23] and at least once he flew into a violent rage when the question of Bundy's paternity was raised.[22] Bundy described his grandmother as a timid and obedient woman who periodically underwent electroconvulsive therapy for depression[23] and feared to leave their house toward the end of her life.[24] Bundy occasionally exhibited disturbing behavior, even at that early age. Julia recalled awakening one day from a nap to find herself surrounded by knives from the Cowell kitchen; her three-year-old nephew was standing by the bed, smiling.

In 1950, Louise changed her surname from Cowell to Nelson,[10] and at the urging of multiple family members, she left Philadelphia with her son to live with cousins Alan and Jane Scott in Tacoma, Washington.[26] In 1951 Louise met Johnny Culpepper Bundy, a hospital cook, at an adult singles night at Tacoma's First Methodist Church.[27] They married later that year and Johnny Bundy formally adopted Ted.[27] Johnny and Louise conceived four children of their own, and although Johnny tried to include his adoptive son in camping trips and other family activities, Ted remained distant. He later complained to his girlfriend that Johnny wasn't his real father, "wasn't very bright," and "didn't make much money."[28] [my emphasis]
Not too surprisingly to me, Bundy's nurture and his nature are both pretty terrible. One of the biggest reasons I was opposed to his execution was that I thought we needed to have a better idea what could make a person like him before we got rid of him, and if he had lived into the age of genetic testing, if he were willing, it would have been fairly easy to determine whether Samuel Cowell was both his father and his grandfather.
posted by jamjam at 9:13 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Does that detail matter? Children of incest are not, unfortunately, uncommon. Most of them don't grow up to become serial killers. Is the additional stigma worth it?
posted by sciatrix at 5:06 AM on February 6 [11 favorites]


It matters in two ways.

Legal abortion for any reason, including rape or incest, and in the case of Bundy's mother it surely would have been both, was unavailable in Oregon in 1946, and I find it hard to believe Bundy's mother would not have terminated his pregnancy if her father had been the father, if she could have. Legal Abortion would very probably have meant no Bundy if his father was also his grandfather.


And I think there are certain mental illnesses with a heritable component which predispose people, almost always men, to acts like Bundy's, and the reason I highlighted passages about his grandfather Samuel Cowell, is that I think he displays some of the cardinal signs, such as torturing animals and predatory sexuality (if he is in fact Bundy's father). I'm also intrigued by the report he "spoke aloud to unseen presences", and I've seen anecdotal accounts that associate this with narcolepsy in some cases -- which I think may have been a factor in Dylann Roof's crimes.
posted by jamjam at 6:25 AM on February 6


I keep wondering about the role podcasts like My Favorite Murder play in this.

I was a big Murderino when MFM started, mostly because Karen and Georgia discussed their struggles with depression and anxiety in a transparent, nonstigmatized way. While I stayed with the podcast for a few years, the underlying racism started to bother me. The "sweet baby angels" they discussed were generally white, which paralleled the mainstream interest in pretty blonde murder victims; they valorized the carceral system, which is intrinsically racist; they've joked about mispronouncing "ethnic" names or used the whitewashed versions of same; and they've snapped at BIPOC fans or listeners who've pointed out the problematic elements of their podcast. Between the tipi shirt controversy and an offhand statement in an episode about the Charles Stuart case that the media "made you racist", I couldn't deal with it any more.

To tie this into the substance of this post, when I attended a few of the live shows I noticed that some attendees were wearing shirts with Ted Bundy or other serial killers. Even though the show was about (pretty, white) victims and survivors, and in spite of their focus on surviving bad situations (through catchphrases like "fuck politeness" and "carry that pepper spray with you until you see the sun rise"), they still attracted hybristophiles and didn't push back against the "Ted Bundy is HOT" meme that occasionally surfaces.

I'm still interested in true crime, but I've been more focused on media that centers the victims and looks at the effect of crimes on culture and society. The two I've appreciated the most are Stranglers, a podcast about the Boston Strangler, and You Must Remember Manson, Karina Longworth's miniseries on Charles Manson. The former begins with a description of a Boston Strangler victim, ends with a recitation of the Strangler victims' names, and doesn't glamorize Albert DiSalvo as a hybristophile pinup. The latter is an exhaustively researched look at Manson's relationship with Hollywood at the end of the 1960s, and how Hollywood changed before and after the Manson murders. (It also goes into greater detail about Sharon Tate than most previous coverage of Manson.)

In the wake of these Ted Bundy documentaries, I've been thinking a lot about how true-crime media that centers the victims would look, and how the culture would change if we centered the victims and took a more critical view of the carceral system. I'd be curious to hear what others think about a shift like this.
posted by pxe2000 at 6:47 AM on February 6 [8 favorites]


I mentioned this a little obliquely above, but I think that victim-centered media and hybristophile-deterrance actually distinctively different goals. Often people who are focused on and celebrating the victims lean even harder on the monstrosity and inhumanity of someone who would erase a person like that, and this perceived monstrosity (and the fantasy that such a monstrous person could love me and me alone, or that I and I alone could convert him to humanity) is a huge draw for a hybristophile. On the other hand, deterring that by focusing on how, say, Elliot Rodgers was a pathetic like dweeb who thought the best way to be famous was killing people... doesn't focus on the victims, because in order to kill the mysterious monstrosity of a killer and reduce him to a petty little dweeb, you have to humanize him. Which means paying attention to him and deconstructing his backstory.
posted by sciatrix at 7:08 AM on February 6 [4 favorites]


My husband asked me why I liked the My Favorite Murder podcast (which I didn't initially and then got sucked in) and after some thought I said, "maybe it's like how men like stories about war." I'm not sure, yet, about that idea, actually. But there is something to looking deeply into the horrors that you face. I think "fuck politeness" (from MFM podcast) is hugely on-point for where we are culturally today in terms of women getting ahead and protecting themselves in a culture that still devalues their lives at the most basic levels.

I also find the notion that Bundy was charismatic and interesting deeply disturbing. There have been lots of similar things said about Edmund Kemper. We watched the Mindhunter series (loved it) and he's a featured character. But, let me tell you, all the ways he supposedly picked up women and talked about them and the recounted conversations from investigators that supposedly find him so interesting? I don't get it. He's not. He's not that charismatic at all. But dudes don't pick up on other dudes' creep factor, apparently. It's not actionable info in their minds. If you sit at the bar and discuss "logic" at length and other bullshit topics, you're a great guy and couldn't possibly....
posted by amanda at 9:23 AM on February 6 [7 favorites]


I also saw and loved Mindhunter, which is a TV series rather than a movie but maybe reinforces Kadin2048's point about there being no anti-serial killer serial killer fiction. Because one of Mindhunter's theses is that male serial killers who target women are only the most extreme expression of misogyny and toxic masculinity that permeates all of society, including the progressive, forward-thinking protagonist and his partner. Although there's one graphic death at the beginning, it only depicts murder as grainy police photos, without the gory titillation-disguised-as-empathy common to shows like Criminal Minds. And it sharply deconstructs the trope of the lone maverick genius-detective and his vile but gentlemanly counterpart (shockingly, it turns out that collaboration works better than wandering off half-cocked, rules exist for a reason, and just because you think being a serial killer whisperer makes you special doesn't mean the serial killer agrees).

It's a very well-done show and I'm looking forward to the next season -- and at the same time, in context of this discussion, I can't help thinking about how it's a show about violence against women which (despite some great female characters) still spends most of its time centering white men, and in which the justly-lauded breakout performance was of a misogynist necrophiliac serial killer whose victims would still be alive today if they hadn't met him. So...there's that.
posted by bettafish at 3:59 PM on February 6 [6 favorites]


Meanwhile, this interview with survivor Carol DaRonch sure has an interesting juxtaposition:

"I thought was very important for people to understand the horror of who this guy is and how he is a master deceiver and manipulator... He generally was able to kill people before they even knew what was going on," Berlinger says.

vs. (emphasis mine)

[Bundy] claimed to be a police officer investigating a break-in of her own vehicle — complete with a badge to flash, reassuring her.

Describing that evening now, DaRonch makes clear she wanted only to be helpful to an authority figure. She was not persuaded by Bundy’s appearance or personality — qualities which led to media fascination with him after his crimes were revealed.

“I thought he was kind of creepy. … I thought he was a lot older than he was,” she says, noting that she smelled alcohol on his breath. (From behind bars, Bundy later said he usually drank heavily before killing.)


And later: “He was so arrogant,” she says of their face-offs at trial. “I just think he thought he was going to get away with everything.”
posted by bettafish at 4:30 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]


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