OPINION: Stop making serial killers a serial commodity

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Zac Efron portrays serial killer Ted Bundy in "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile." (Courtesy photo by Voltage Pictures)

Statistically speaking, you’re much less likely to die from homicide now than at any point in our nation’s history, and you’re even less likely to fall victim to a serial killer.

However, it seems like every time you turn around, there is a new true crime show, podcast or documentary featuring serial killers. They pop up like weeds on various streaming services.

We just can’t seem to stop watching them, simultaneously captivated and horrified learning about human depravities from the recent past.

Believe me, I get it. Serial killers are fascinating, in a uniquely terrifying way. In essence, they are the real life equivalent of a hypnotic thriller movie.

One story that caught my eye recently is a Hollywood film starring “High School Musical” alumnus Zac Efron as one of America’s most infamous serial killers, Ted Bundy — murderer of at least 30 young women in the 1970s. The movie is called “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.”

Due to Efron’s popularity and Bundy’s notoriety, naturally this film has received a lot of attention and criticism already. Many people have come out to criticize the casting of Efron as a serial killer, due to his widely perceived handsomeness and charm.

The problem isn’t casting Efron as Bundy, who was always perceived by the media as uncannily charming and handsome. The problem is that there is a movie being made about Bundy to begin with.

Though the movie is said to be from the perspective of Bundy’s girlfriend, that doesn’t change the fact that the central story is defined by the women Bundy murdered.

Bundy committed acts against women that are hard to reconcile with the notion of human decency. Commodifying the crimes of Bundy is immoral; it serves to immortalize him (which is what he would have wanted), and by extension it indirectly profits off the lives of the women he brutally killed.

Anyone who has watched the videos of Bundy’s trials has seen how bizarre and sickening they are. More disturbing, however, is how much Bundy seemed to enjoy the attention, relishing in the publicity of his crimes and intoxicated with the idea of getting away with it all. Bundy’s trial was a spectacle that even now seems to be made for TV, and that’s the reason it garnered national attention in the first place.

Naturally, when these horrifying crimes are exposed, the news media is going to report it as part of their duty to inform the public, although to some extent I think the gratuitously detailed coverage of tragedies is also unfounded. However, I think that when Hollywood steps in, packaging and marketing these heinous tragedies as movies just to make a profit, it crosses a line.

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with producing well researched, educational documentaries about subjects such as Bundy, where the purpose is to inform and provide in-depth historical context. But I can’t help but feel that Bundy would be just tickled to death if he knew a movie was being made about him.

My advice is to find a more wholesome Efron movie to drool over instead of promoting Bundy’s legacy. I personally prefer a pretty fabulous musical trilogy that is homicide-free.

Rebecca Vrbas is the assistant culture editor for the Collegian and a junior in mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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My name is Rebecca Vrbas. I’m the assistant culture editor at the Collegian and a junior in journalism and mass communications. My hobbies include obsessing over an ever-expanding pool of musicals and cats (not the musical). I love writing because of the infinite intricacy of language, as well as its power to cultivate a sense of community through sharing experiences.