A Problematic Hollywood Trend When Telling Serial Killers' Stories
It’s never easy to have a discussion about a subject such as serial killers. In April 2021, it was announced that popular Lord of the Rings (2001) star Elijah Wood would be portraying serial killer Ted Bundy, in a new film titled No Man of God. This comes after actor Zac Efron portrayed Bundy in the popular Netflix film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, And Vile (2019). Many people became enthralled with the killer’s story after this biopic, but it climbed to a level of infatuation that was romanticizing Bundy, rather than condemning him. Now, yet another movie will be produced to highlight the life of a man who deserves none of the positive attention he is receiving… like all serial killers.
Why are people so interested in Bundy’s life? Besides wanting to learn more about his criminal history, this interest stems back to his original court appearances from June to July 1979. Women showed up in abundance to his hearings, with one woman saying, “He just doesn’t look like the type to kill somebody.” This idea reinforced a concept that Ted Bundy was too attractive to commit those gruesome crimes, but these ideas do not correlate at all.
Since there has been an uprising in films made about “popular” true crime cases, there have been popular actors and actresses casted to portray these people. While Efron played a blood-chilling Bundy, there were mixed reactions about his interpretation. Some thought that he was compelling when depicting Bundy’s cold and theatrical nature, while others got the wrong message. They found Efron to play an attractive and charming Bundy, which contradicted the fact that he was a convicted serial killer. Casting an A-list, conventionally attractive celebrity to play this gruesome murderer was, in a way, glorifying Bundy. It reinforced a decades-old idea that people found him attractive, therefore he deserved some kind of sympathy.
Although it does drive in money for these films, casting popular actors and continuing to pump out these films, in general, is dangerous for many reasons. Glorifying such killers overshadows victims and others affected by them. People romanticize killers when someone they like is in the driver’s seat, causing them to feel for the killer. This is a trend that could continue with Wood’s portrayal of Bundy.
While Ted Bundy is a popular topic of conversation, as to why these blockbusters need to stop, there are others discussed heavily in popular culture and portrayed in films. Jeffrey Dahmer was portrayed by former Disney star and R5 band member, Ross Lynch, in the film My Friend Dahmer (2017). While it was meant to be a film from his former classmate’s perspective about a misunderstood student with a dark side, many people watched because they were fans of Lynch.
People romanticized My Friend Dahmer because it was Lynch who played him. Again, he was a loveable personality, bringing some kind of sympathy to a heartless killer. Also in April 2021, it was announced that American Horror Story actor Evan Peters would be playing Dahmer in Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. This only goes to perpetuate the on-going trend that attractive actors are romanticizing the overtold stories of criminals.
While the industry will most likely continue to produce biopic after biopic, about famous true crime cases and killers, we must have hope that justice will be done for victims and families in films… somewhere down the road.
Check out the official trailer for “My Friend Dahmer.”
Sadie is an Intern Article Writer and Senior English Major at the University of Central Arkansas. In her spare time, she enjoys watching horror movies, reading, and spending time with her guinea pigs, Ginger and Spike.