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‘Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes’ kills

“Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes’ is an ultimately boring rehash of the original Ted Bundy fiasco. 

The Netflix documentary, created, written, and directed by Joe Berlinger, details the intimate aspects of Ted Bundy’s criminal life, from his initial capture, through his multiple escape attempts and then to his eventual electrocution. The only difference from previous programs related to Bundy is that it is framed from the point of view of his prison recordings with a journalist. The show quickly spirals out of this focus in an almost asinine turn. 

The first issue with the documentary is that it honestly feels like it was edited in a matter of hours. In documentaries, that is one of the few things that can be sincerely commented on in addition to cinematography and constructed narrative. In “The Ted Bundy Tapes,” the editing is simply sloppy. It makes no effort to smooth the audience’s transition between concepts or even interviews of people. For a documentary, this is catastrophic for the series’ presentation. In the series’ first episode, the primary subject of the episode is the initial topic of the series: the “all-encompassing, all-telling” expose that Bundy requested to give to a journalist. The cuts are back and forth with almost no attempt to ease the audience into the next segment. 

Another issue with the Netflix series is an external one but an important one to talk about nonetheless: the craze and fanaticization of serial killers like Bundy. When Bundy committed his murders, he was given so much leeway from the public and even the legal system because of his apparent charm. He and other serial killers throughout the late 20th century have massive cult followings because of their incredible charisma. The Netflix documentary doesn’t do much to assuage this idea. It certainly doesn’t actively reinforce the contrived attraction, but it does nothing to stop the craze from coming back which according to CNN, the network’s statement was that they were “creeped out” by the serial killer’s alleged “hotness.” 

Simply put, documentaries on influential and controversial people need to be aware of their impact on a generation’s perception of that figure. For example, if there was a demeaning and unflattering docuseries done on Malcolm X, a generation of Netflix viewers who had no prior conception of who he was would believe him to be an inherently negative figure. Conversely, if Netflix were to release material that painted seemingly positive people like Mother Theresa or Anne Frank in an extremely negative light, the generation watching the series would have a skewed perception of these figures. Now, Netflix cannot be held solely responsible for Berlinger’s film, but Netflix could do a better job of prescreening films and making rational assessments of their effect on their primary audience. 

The Ted Bundy documentary is rather boring and amounts to a cinematic version of Ted Bundy’s Wikipedia page. This does no justice to the victims of Bundy, let alone to the families affected by his killing spree. “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” receives a C-minus rating. 

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