In a guest column for The Daily Beast, Ted Swarens, one of just a few journalists selected to be a witness at Bundy’s January 24, 1989 execution by electric chair at the Florida State Prison, spoke out about Netlix and their effort to “work both sides of an ugly and exploitative street.”
The streaming giant, a staple for true crime documentaries, recently released its four-part docuseries Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes and recently dropped an estimated $9 million for the Zac Efron-starring Bundy biographical feature Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, both of which have come under fire for romanticizing the killer.
“No, Ted Bundy was not ‘hot,’” Swarens writes. “He was a cruelly manipulative narcissist. His crimes included the rape and murder of 12-year-old Kimberly Leach. He viciously beat to death two young women, Margaret Bowman and Lisa Levy, in their Florida State University sorority house and brutally assaulted three other students. He reportedly practiced necrophilia on several of his victims and kept the severed heads of others as trophies.”
“But Netflix is trying to work both sides of an ugly and exploitative street,” Swarens continues. "First, produce and promote a documentary about an infamous killer on the anniversary of his execution; second, snap up a fictional movie about the same psychopath that features a Hollywood hunk; and finally, react with shock on social media when viewers make the leap between violence and sex.”
Shortly after its release, Netflix was forced to address viewers fawning over Bundy in The Ted Bundy Tapes, and Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile was heavily criticized for its lighthearted approach at Bundy’s portrayal.
“The truth, however, is that Bundy wasn’t particularly smart,” Swarens points out. A failed law school student, he turned down a plea deal that would have spared his life and twice served unsuccessfully as his own attorney in capital punishment cases. He certainly wasn’t as good-looking as the actors paid to portray him. His supposed charm was only one weapon he used to trap his victims. Sudden, overwhelming brutality was another.”
Swarens went on to state that “entertainers and journalists had for years sold an irresistible story about a handsome and intelligent killer who disarmed victims with his charm,” which likewise “turned Ted Bundy into a celebrity—a name and face nearly every American knew,” though they largely overlooked the victims of his crimes.0comments
“If the current barrage of TV shows and news stories have triggered in me memories I wanted to leave behind, what have they done to the victims who survived Bundy’s brutality? What dark memories have resurfaced for the families and friends of those he killed? When will they ever be allowed to leave a horrific past in the past?” he questioned.
Swarens concluded his column by noting that “Bundy’s victims and their families deserve to be remembered and mourned” and that “the man who caused so much pain and grief should be forgotten.”