Why does true crime exist? What the hell is wrong with us?

It is a genre I truly hate. I don't get it at all. Most of the time it's beating a dead horse at best and plain voyeuristic at worst.

Despite this, I still watched Netflix's latest true crime doco-series Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, because they went out of their way to market it a particular way; like a horror.


Netflix issued "warnings" to viewers not to watch alone and the series made headlines as fans were "terrified" by it. But honestly the only "terrifying" part of the series is that it exists in 2019.

I will say it was fascinating - but not for the reasons you'd expect. What fascinated me was what it had to say on a societal level, in terms of the things that drove Bundy to commit his crimes.

Bundy himself spoke at length about toxic masculinity, pornography and the commodification of women's bodies in relation to his personality, upbringing and crimes.

He and those close to him spoke of his inability to articulate his feelings and desires properly, his lack of outlet for his frustrations, his lack of support, the messages he'd picked up from pornography about how women "wanted" to be treated and men's entitlement to treat them thus.

Indeed one of the catalysts of Bundy's killing spree was a woman who did not reciprocate his feelings.

Is any of this an excuse? Of course not. But toxic masculinity has been proven to impact men's mental health and is thought to be a contributing factor to male on female violence.

Imagine if we afforded the victims the same amount of exposure as their killer. Photo / Netflix
Imagine if we afforded the victims the same amount of exposure as their killer. Photo / Netflix

Bundy also made a valid point when he simply called out society's fascination with violence, criminality and death.

Speaking about the crowd that gathered for his execution - drinking, celebrating and even selling merchandise - Bundy said: "They think I'm crazy? Listen to all of them ... Vengeance is what the death penalty really is, it's a desire of society to take an eye for an eye and I guess there's no cure for that. That's society's problem."


He wasn't wrong. Society loves a scandal and takes a certain amount of pleasure in watching someone go up in flames - the fact that this series even got made speaks to an apparently unending fascination with the brutalisation of women, the strange idolisation of the men that commit that violence.

All you have to do is look to the bowels of social media to find the swathes of "fans" talking about how "hot" Bundy is, making jokes like "he could kill me any day".

Which leads me to the most terrifying part of all. Bundy was able to do what he did, get away with it for so long and become the subject of a series and film all these years later for a disturbing reason: He was a mild-mannered, well-educated, attractive white man.

If you're an attractive white male, you get away with certain things.

Media reports focus on the "oh but he's such a good guy" angle complete with "he would never do something like this" and "he had his whole life ahead of him".

Bundy was allowed to act as his own defence in court, make demands of the judge and address the media.

Ted Bundy in court. Photo / Netflix
Ted Bundy in court. Photo / Netflix

Meanwhile, the Trayvon Martins and Botham Shem Jeans of the world are shot dead before they even get to utter a defence.

Perhaps most tellingly, when the Ted Bundy Tapes ended, Netflix's next recommendation to me was something called Assassin, which featured a man standing in front of a wall of guns, advocating violence and death. A lot of films advocate the same and in a good portion of those films, women are the victims.

Except Bundy's story isn't a film. It was - and all too often still is - real life. Why are we still turning this into entertainment and marketing it like the latest Wes Craven horror?
Why, in a time where women are desperately trying to articulate the real life horrors we face on a daily basis, must we face more?

Why, in a time of #MeToo and so soon after Grace Millane, must we be reminded what men are capable of and what a well-positioned man can get away with if he smiles wide enough?

Ted Bundy was a serial killer that tore apart some 30 families because he couldn't process his feelings, deal with his mental health or challenge his entitlement.

Instead we made him a celebrity. That's the true crime.


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