A Ted Bundy double-header has prevailed in the form of Netflix documentary talks with a killer: The Ted-Bundy-Tapes and a feature film, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile  (both strangely come to us from director Joe Berlinger) and certain talks will inevitably take place upon their arrival. True crime enthusiasts are thrilled, while critics tend to take a moralizing stance, insisting that nothing else can be learned by looking back on cases like Bundy's and looking back on a glamorous spotlight on murders. Sometimes that sounds right. In general, however, there are nuances in the analysis (academic or not) of mass murderers and their surrounding culture.
When we unpack the why and how of the crimes committed by these people, the conversation can and must incorporate the cultural implications of the Mansons, the Bundys, and the Nightstalkers. It's Everywhere: Years After Their Crime These Jabronis appear on t-shirts worn by Edgebros's Edgiest in an apparent contest to see who can be the most murderous victim. Similarly (and to Netflix's great dismay), after the talks with Killer with Killer a massive vomiting of Ted Bundy's thirsty tweets spewed into the social media. Therefore, it is a fair caveat to voice concerns that as we consume these media ̵
The same conversation of cultural implications, the unavoidable wrath of some, can and must also include the undeniable charm of these criminals. Charles Manson persuaded a whole group of youth to kill in his name. Ted Bundy was able to attract victims and, because of his notorious charisma, enjoy some privilege in custody: he was able to make his first escape from prison because he was left alone for quite a while should be self-evident) is not a luxury for many. It pays to ask which systemic biases lead to success. Richard Ramirez, meanwhile, married one of his many groups on death row for thirteen assassinations and eleven sexual assaults. It is important to note that this part of the conversation is not confirmation of the crime itself. The conversation about the cultural impact and functioning of these men is instead a revelation, not only to the killers, but also to society and culture.
We should look closely at why these men enjoy the limelight. The Ted Bundy Tapes illuminate this aspect quite clearly: Bundy's manipulative methods were often confused for reasons of intelligence, and even a judge in the murder trial ordered him to declare that he had made a good lawyer. I'm not joking. His handsome white boy seemed puzzled for a quiet charm when Tapes showed him that he was losing control and often became warlike, a whore for his own vanity and a true believer in his own lies. Bad documentaries can be harder to see and deserve to be put to the test. But decent ones such as Tapes serve to pull back the curtain a little more while giving the victims time and tangibility, and above all asking the question, "How did we fail them?"
Serial killers are bad people who have done cruel things, and these things are often hard to investigate. However, collective attempts to find others safely miss the target. The usual write-off is, "He's bad, period, a confused psycho. Could never be me or someone I know, fry him and get ready." But they are people we know. While some killers are on the margins of society, surely, many of them are well mixed between the innocent and the law-abiding. Ann Rule wrote whole books about it. Bundy is the guy next to you in the call center. Gacy is a pioneer for your local church. They may be outliers in a socioeconomic sense, but in society? Her local mass murderer lives right down the street, and statistically he's probably a white man. It is valuable to examine all this to gain a better understanding of this godforsaken planetary landscape and how we live and move about in it.
Of course, there is a difference between this trial and the glorification. When the new serial killer movie or documentary du Jour comes out, many factors matter: is the sound playful or does it treat gravity with gravity? Are the victims respected or further objectified? Is there a real purpose to understand the motivations and catalysts that led to these crimes? Is the audience able to address or celebrate the popularity of the killer? If the movie is based on a book, has the author's property at the story been subjected to the killer? If the killer was a conventionally attractive person, a filmmaker could sexualize her, but should he? Is this movie the hottest sin to romanticize the white serial killer? These are the elements that you should encounter and toast. Henry: Portrait of a serial killer . For a great look at the awful knowledge that someone is known and loved, a monster is a monster, see The Clovehitch Killer (which, though not a biopic, has strong similarities in its counterpart). For a good introduction to the brutal cause-and-effect thrash that can excite the wounded to kill, you need to see Charlize Theron in a shattering performance as Aileen Wuornos in Monster . These films do not glorify, they inspect. This is a gentle reminder to stay chilly and know the difference.
The quest to distance ourselves from killers and wash hands on a case-by-case basis is tempting, and to be fair, true crime is certainly not for everyone. But one thing is also true for horror fans and real crime enthusiasts: Looking into the darkness is not itself an act of tenderness. In particular, horror fans should be well aware of the unpleasant reactions to the media they consume. How many times have you heard, "What kind of sick would like to see something like that?" from someone who just does not get the nuances of the genre and its comment value? When we investigate a crime, we examine the ugly warts as closely as we look in the friendly eyes. We look at the way someone has gone out of the deep end and how he has effortlessly intervened among us for years. The hard truth is that it's far more complicated than "This guy is evil and that's it." Watch these movies and rate them accordingly. If they screw it up, call them. But do not condemn these works unseen. Many serial killer movies have something to say about "they" and "us."
Do not look away.