A Case of White Privilege: The Ted Bundy Tapes

This past weekend I, like many other coeds across the U.S, sat down with my roommate to watch Netflix’s new series Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes. Normally, I am not the type of person who can stomach horror movies, true crime shows, or any form of serial killer. But before I knew it, I was sprawled out on our fluffy white rug, stuffing popcorn into my mouth and exchanging horrified glances with my roommate. I was inexplicably drawn in by the interviews with detectives, Bundy’s eerie voice overs, and the constant, gut wrenching knowledge that this was indeed a true story. But the real reasons this series made my blood run cold were deeper than the fact that most of Bundy’s victims were around my age, and almost looked like me.

The first aspect of the series that really bothered me was the sheer amount of white privilege that Ted Bundy’s fame shows. Most of the serial killers that fascinate the public are white males. Though serial killers of different races and genders certainly exist, they are rarely covered by the media. Additionally, news coverage is disproportionally given to victims who are young, white women. In fact, the lack of coverage of missing women and people of color has been so prevalent, that the term “Missing White Woman Syndrome” has been coined to describe it. Zach Sommers, a sociologist at Northwestern University, found that although white women make up about a third of the national population, half of the articles he found were only about missing persons cases involving white females. Although the murders Bundy committed are still indescribably horrific, by making a series that focuses on a killer of exclusively white women, Netflix is continuing to perpetuate this whitewashed narrative.  

Bundy’s white privilege also allowed him to rise to fame and not be held accountable for his actions. We live in world in which courts turn a blind eye to men like Brett Kavanaugh and Brock Turner, while black men are fatally shot for having broken tail lights or buying Skittles, and the police officers responsible face no consequences. At one point during the second episode of the series, a female reporter is interviewing Bundy about what his experience is prison has been like. She asks if he ever sees the sunlight, how much fresh air he gets. He smiles, laughs, and admits that he misses the outdoors. In that moment, I could feel the producers willing us, the audience, to feel bad for Bundy. But as I watched, all I could think about was the ridiculous moment in which Brock Turner’s father complained that his son’s life had been “deeply altered forever”, after he was convicted of three felonies for sexual assault. In both situations, seemingly no thought was given to the lives of the women who were brutally murdered by Bundy, or how the woman who Turner assaulted could only sleep during the day for months afterward.

Though these facts may seem blatantly obvious upon first glance, it’s important to keep in mind that the public’s fascination with Bundy stems from the fact that he seemed like a ‘normal’ person, and is considered attractive by a lot of people. His charming manner has allowed him to be thoroughly romanticized, and makes it easy for people to forget all of the gruesome murders he committed.

If you’re a huge fan of serial killers and true crime shows and have been anticipating this series for a while, I’m not necessarily saying that you shouldn’t watch it. But if you do, remember that these women were real people, whose families have suffered immeasurable anguish already, and are now being forced to relive one of the most traumatic events of their lives. Remember that there are thousands of people of color whose disappearances have not even appeared on the news, let alone an entire Netflix series.