Ted Bundy and Jeffery Dahmer are two of the most prolific serial killers in U.S. history. Combined, the two men are responsible for at least 21 and potentially up to 53 murders- Bundy has been charged with 14 murders but may be linked up to 36, and Dahmer was charged with 17 murders (this was later reduced to 15). These men weren’t just murderers. Bundy was a rapist, a manipulator, a necrophiliac, and a psychopath who targeted any unfortunate woman who came into his path. Dahmer was a cannibal, a rapist, and a necrophiliac who targeted men and young boys. Basically, these men are examples of the worst type of person in society. Albeit they may have had some mental issues, there is no excuse for the horror and depravity these men are responsible for.

And yet, these men are household names for more than just their crimes. In 2019, Zac Efron, America’s sweetheart in my humble opinion, starred as Ted Bundy in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. This movie followed Bundy and his murders, but from the perspective of Liz Kendall (played by Lily Collins), Bundy’s longtime girlfriend. Making a movie about a serial killer can be complicated, because on one hand highlighting the pain and trauma that the victims suffered is very important and should absolutely be done, but glorifying the killer himself should obviously never be the goal. Ted Bundy was known to be a charming, decent looking man and if a movie was going to be made about him the actor needed to be representative of this. But choosing Zac Efron seemed a little over the edge. Throughout the movie, there are scenes between Bundy and Kendall that are romantic in nature. Watching Zac Efron and Lily Collins make out in a movie that is supposed to be about one of the worst serial killers of all time is almost demeaning to the victims. Ted Bundy was a human, but a terrible one, and painting him in a loving, attractive light is disrespectful to the families of the victims he brutally raped and murdered.

The movie My Friend Dahmer chronicles Dahmer’s high school years, and it portrays his mental descent into his murderous path. Jeffery Dahmer is played by Ross Lynch, another arguably hot actor. Dahmer did not have the same well known charming demeanor that Bundy embodied, so it feels unrealistic and unnecessary that they chose an attractive actor to portray Dahmer in a movie about his development into a raping, cannibalistic serial killer. Again, it distracts from what should be the focus of both of these films- the crimes of these men and their victims. You can make movies like My Friend Dahmer that focus on the development and personal issues of young serial killers, but this needs to be done without glorifying the men themselves. A lot of serial killers had messed up childhoods, were abused themselves, or had mental disorders, and we can and should talk about this. But we should not be doing it with ex- Disney channel babes as the leading role in these movies. It creates and aura of fantasy, when in fact it must be remembered that these men did exist, their crimes were real, and the effects of their crimes will haunt the families of the victims and people in general forever.

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Makena Gordon

4 thoughts on “Stop Making Serial Killers Sexy

  1. I agree with a lot of the points this author makes. There’s a fine line between educating the population on criminal actions and their victims and glorifying criminals. A line I don’t think Hollywood always stays on the right side of. I’m a frequent crime TV and podcast connoisseur and have thought about this idea for a while. I can name many serial killers, but can I name all of their victims? Can I name even one of their victims? I think there needs to be a shift in content that highlights more of the victim’s stories and their families. A shift that focuses more on the lives these people lived and not just what was done to them.

  2. I agree with not glorifying serial killers by using “attractive” and popular stars and that this can be demeaning to the victims and their families. However, I think the part of the movie that shows Ted Bundy being in a loving relationship may be true. Serial killers often have a double life, a family, etc., and will also be killers. In a way, Ted Bundy seems more sadistic. I haven’t seen Ross Lynch in any of his former roles, but I thought his acting was spot-on, and he played in one of the scariest shows I’ve ever seen. I also felt that the film’s main focus on Jeffrey Dahmer was less glorified than the movie about Ted Bundy and more about the victims and their families.

  3. I feel that movie producers come up with the idea to film a movie about serial killers, the intent isn’t to idolize the serial killers but instead she light on their crimes and the victims. However, when movie producers select actors that are extremely well-known for their looks, this can end up focusing the attention on the actual serial killer instead of the victims and the evil crimes they committed. I think that by selecting well-known good looking people to play the parts of serial killers, the movie producers have better luck of attracting more viewers, but at the same time, the viewer’s attentions is now only focused on the good looking actor/serial killer.

  4. I find the idea of making serial killers “sexy” for entertainment to be interesting because in a way TV is glorifying these killers making them into pop culture icons that are no longer considered to be despicable humans but rather men worth falling for. TV has romanticized the idea of villains and in turn it has resulted in the erasure of the terrible actions that people such as serial killers have committed.

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