A Ted Bundy double text has come down in the yeast in the form of Netflix documentary Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes and a feature film, Extremely Evil, Shockingly Evil and Vile (Both are curious, came to us from director Joe Berlinger), and with their arrival, some conversations have to take place. True criminal fans are excited, while detractors tend to take a moralizing attitude, insisting that nothing else can be learned by looking back on cases like Bundys, and looking back is giving a glamorous spotlight to murder. Sometimes it calls right. In general, however, there are nuances to the analysis (academic or not) of mass killers and the culture surrounding them.
When we unpack why and how the crimes these people have committed can and can include the cultural impact of Mansons, Bundys and Nightstalkers. It is everywhere: years after their crimes took place these journals on t-shirts worn by the Edgiest of Edgebros in an apparent competition to see who might be the most discerning of the actual murder victims. Similarly (and Netflix's great dismay), a massive vomitus of Ted Bundy spread thirst tweets on social media in the wake of Conversations with a Killer [1
The same conversation of cultural influence, to the inevitable ire of some, can and must also include the undeniable charm of these criminals. Charles Manson was able to convince a whole group of youths to kill on his behalf. Ted Bundy was able to lure victims and enjoy quite a privilege in detention because of his infamous charisma: he was able to make his first escape from prison because he was alone in the negligible time alone, which should Saying yourself) is not a luxury for many. It is worth asking which systemic disturbances are causing him success. Richard Ramirez, meanwhile, married one of his many groupings while he was dead to thirteen counts of murder and eleven sexual assaults. It is important to note that this part of the conversation is not an endorsement of the crimes themselves. The talk of cultural influence and how these men could operate is instead obvious, not just for the killings, but for society and culture.
We should look hard at why these men enjoy the limelight. Ted Bundy Tapes highlights this aspect quite clearly: Bundy's manipulative ways were often confused with intelligence, even though a judge was asked for his attempted murder to proclaim that he would have made a good lawyer. I'm not making fun. His beautiful white boy's appearance was confused for a quiet charm when Tapes showed him losing control and becoming war fight often, a whore to his own vanity and a true belief in his own lies. Bad documentaries can be harder to see and deserve to be put on blast, sure enough. But decent as Tapes serves to pull back the curtain a little while victims sacrifice time, tangibility and most importantly ask, "How did we fail them?"
Serial killers are bad people who have done grueling things and these things are often difficult to investigate. But collective attempts to secure others, they miss the mark. The usual depreciation is: "He is evil, period. A fake psycho. Could never be me or anyone I know. Fry him and do it with it." But they are people we know. Some killed live on the edge of society, of course, but many of them are also nicely mixed among the innocent and law-abiding. Ann Rule wrote whole books on this. Bundy is the guy next to you at the call center. Gacy is a usher at your local church. They can be outliers in a socio-behavioral sense, but in society? Your local mass murderer lives right down the street, and statistically he's probably a straight white man. There is value in examining all this for a greater understanding of this god-forsaken hell of a planet and how we stay alive and move about it.
Of course, there is a difference in that study and glorification. Many factors influence this when the new serial killer film or documentary comes out: is the tone playful, or does it treat the subject with gravity? Are the victims respected or are they more objective? Is there a real goal to understand the motivations and catalysts that led to these crimes? When addressing the popularity of the murderers, is the audience able to consider or celebrate? If the movie is based on a book, is the author's ownership of the story subject to the killer? If the killer was a conventionally attractive person, a filmmaker could sexualize them, but should he? Does this movie oblige the trendiest sin to romanticize the white male serial killer? These are the elements that are going to poke and prodders. For a good primer on the serial killer profile done right, see Henry: Portrait of a serial killer . For a strong look at the dreadful knowledge that a well-known and loved one is a monster, see Clovehitch Killer (which, although not biopic, has in any way strong B.T.K. similarities in its antagonist). For a good dive into the brutal cause and effect thrashing that can move the vulnerable in killing, see Charlize Theron turning in a horrible priest like Aileen Wuornos in Monster . These films do not glorify, they inspect. This is a mild reminder to stay cool and know the difference.
Efforts to remove us from murderers and wash our hands after cases are tempting, and to be fair, true crime is certainly not for everyone. But one thing is right for horror fans and true criminal enthusiasts alike: staring into the dark is not even an act of endearment. Especially horror fans should be closely aware of crappy reactions to the media they consume How many times have you heard, "What kind of ill person would like to see something like this?" from someone who just doesn't get the degree of the genre and its commentary value? If we are to investigate a crime, we investigate the ugly warts as thoroughly as we look in the friendly eyes. We look at the ways in which a person has gone out of the deep end and the ways in which they have blinded us for many years. The hard truth is that it's far more complicated than, "This guy is evil, and that's it." Watch these movies and evaluate them accordingly. If they screw it up, call them out. But do not condemn these works invisibly. Many serial killer movies have something to say about "them" and "us".
Don't look away.