Netflix’s Obsession With Understanding Ted Bundy
By Anahi Anaya
Serial killers remain a fascination in society due to their twisted psychology and behavior. The lack of comprehension behind the purpose of their heinous crimes makes them unforgettable. American society is well acquainted with people like Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, and H.H. Holmes. Due to their popularity, there have been multiple books, documentaries, and movies made about their stories and killing sprees. Some of the most famous include “My Friend Dahmer,” “Zodiac,” and “Gacy.” Netflix has joined in on the fad and made a documentary about Ted Bundy, arguably one of the most psychopathic serial killers to date. The documentary is four episodes long --an hour per episode -- and is derived from a hundred hours worth of interviews and archival footage.
Ted Bundy was known to be a charismatic man who was politically inclined and had many connections. However, Bundy had a troublesome childhood, a difficult home life, and did not act like the typical all-American boy. He struggled to find a place for himself, so much so that he seemed to make it his mission to excel and become a household name. Bundy craved attention, fame, and success. He sought the kind of validation from society that could never really be given to him. He developed a greed for power that stemmed from not having control over his own life and no sense of identity or stability from a very young age.
His first known crime was the sexual assault of Karen Sparks in Jan. of 1974. Following this event was a series of murders, assaults, kidnappings, and abuse. To date, Bundy is linked to about thirty to forty murders across seven states, but is suspected to have killed as many as a hundred women. He is not only known for his vast number of crimes but also for his clever antics that led to two escapes from authorities and a lack of suspicion against him. When the police first started investigating the alarming disappearances in the Northwest area, they received numerous clues from survivors of Bundy’s attacks. They said the culprit was an attractive young man whose name was Ted. He pretended to be disabled to lure and attack his victims, and drove a tan Volkswagen Beetle. Although Bundy perfectly fit the description, he was dismissed as a lead because no one expected a law student with no criminal record to be a ruthless murderer.
Authorities finally made Bundy their prime suspect after mounting evidence from his location at the time of the murders, witness reports, and lack of alibi. In August of 1975, he was pulled over by the police for speeding. They found that Bundy had materials fit for an assault, such as masks and blunt objects. As a result, he was taken in for questioning and eventually charged for his crimes after being identified by a woman who escaped his attempted attack. Authorities received lots of backlash because the public did not believe that someone as charming as Bundy could be a criminal. He chose to present himself in court as amicable and used his looks and charisma to sway the public in his favor. Essentially, this is what made for his first escape, after he easily jumped out from a second-story window in a courthouse, with few barriers or restraints because he was not believed to be dangerous. He was eventually caught, but escaped again from his jail cell. Bundy was free for a month and he used his new liberty to continue killing. Luckily, he was caught again, but only because of his lack of respect for speed limits. Ted Bundy was put on death row for his crimes and was finally electrocuted on Jan. 24, 1989. After a long period of despair and confusion, people were at ease but not completely satisfied because Bundy’s victims could never really come back or get justice.
Netflix made sure to tell Bundy’s story in great detail with the help of inside sources, old recordings of interviews, and exclusive footage. Although it was meticulously crafted to tell a story while also psychoanalyzing the Bundy’s character, the series has received mixed reviews. Some appreciate the great attention paid to including primary sources, witnesses, and visuals to make the documentary both entertaining and factually accurate. Yet, others think that the docuseries is boring and bland, lacking anything unique when compared to previous works about Bundy’s story. Although Ted Bundy is an interesting criminal and remains well-known for his complexity, Netflix failed to introduce a fresh view on his life. The information given was repetitive, well-known, and the hundred hours worth of footage and tapes were hardly utilized. The docuseries is not inherently bad, but it could work to offer new insight.
Recently, Netflix has managed to close on a deal for rights to the newest film, “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” starring Zac Efron as Ted Bundy. The film offers a new perspective as viewers get to experience Bundy’s story through the eyes of his longtime girlfriend, Elizabeth Kloepfer, played by Lily Collins. The rest of the cast includes Haley Joel Osment, Kaya Scodelario, John Malkovich, Jim Parsons, and Angela Sarafyan. It is expected to be a hit due to its talented cast and unique approach. However, it raises questions as to why Netflix has been so intent on producing shows and movies about serial killers and psychopaths. It is important that people remain informed about their nation’s history, however twisted it may be. Lately, however, it seems that people focus more on romanticizing characters like Ted Bundy, while others feel that attention needs to be brought away from these problematic and violent individuals. Netflix’s new obsession is not a cause for high concern, but due to the rise in popularity of crime series, it is interesting to see where they plan to go from here.
Release Date: January 24, 2019
Program Creator: Joe Berlinger
Genre: Television Documentary
Production Company: Netflix