Sexy Serial Killer: Is Ted Bundy sexualized in new Zac Efron movie?

By Kylie Chisholm:

Crime thriller fanatics and High School Musical fans alike are buzzing about Zac Efron’s newest film “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile.” After premiering at the Sundance Film Festival late last month, Joe Berlinger’s latest film has received mixed reactions, specifically surrounding Efron’s performance as notorious serial killer Ted Bundy.

On January 25, 2019, the film’s trailer was released by Fandango and later uploaded to YouTube in anticipation of the film’s premiere at Sundance. However, the sneak peek was met with criticism as some viewers reacted venereally to Efron’s casting by referring to his portrayal of Bundy as “hot.” These comments sparked a controversy over whether the film sexualized Bundy and his terrible crimes through having him portrayed by a well-known, attractive actor.     

Since the release of the trailer, viewers and critics have been weighing in on whether Efron’s casting romanticized Bundy’s actions. The New York Post’s review of “Extremely Wicked” supports Efron’s portrayal of the serial killer, stating how Efron “brilliantly warp[ed] his usual charisma and good looks into something so sinister and loony.” 

The Washington Post reports Berlinger’s intent with the film was to show Bundy as “the believable, charismatic man that caused some to believe him despite the horrific violence he was convicted of committing.” Berlinger has also taken to Twitter to share articles and retweet fans defending Bundy’s portrayal in the film. 

Many of Bundy’s victims (shown above) were college aged, and the additional release of Berlinger’s docuseries “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” on Netflix, have sparked conversation on college campuses. In Worcester, MA, Assumption College’s Peers Advocating Wellness for Students (PAWS) work with survivors of sexual violence alongside campus advocate Marie Vazquez to provide resources and support as well as educate the student body on these tragedies.

When asked about Efron’s casting as Bundy, the PAWS executives all agreed he was the right choice to accurately portray the character.

“[Bundy] was a white male who was very put together and charismatic” Relationship Advocate Kylie O’Rourke said. “It was unfathomable that he could be a serial killer. He was able to play on the bias we had and his charm and that’s probably why he got away with it for so long.”

President of PAWS Joanna Kubiak agrees Efron’s casting helped show Bundy was not the typical serial killer and reminds viewers even the least suspecting people can commit awful crimes. Kubiak, however, did express some doubts, stating “I think that Zac Efron’s casting is smart. My only concern is people not taking it seriously because of being used to seeing Zac Efron as such a glorified man with sex appeal.”

According to RAINN, 11.2% of all students experience sexual violence through physical force, and 4.2% of students have been stalked since entering college. Additionally, 8 out of 10 sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone the victim knows.

RAINN Statistics

Infograph by RAINN

The PAWS executives stressed the importance of reminding survivors of sexual violence and stalking that it is not their fault, and they encourage victims to speak out to someone about their story. “We have to keep an open and nonjudgmental dialogue present,” O’Rourke adds. 

If you are a victim of sexual violence or stalking at Assumption College, reach out to Vazquez at 508-767-7641 or in Founders Hall Room 103. For 24/7 access to the Pathways for Change hotline, call 1-800-870-5905. “Extremely Wicked” is set to be released on Netflix in late 2019.

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