In online post-irony media, empathy gets lost in our nihilism, and we mock the idea of a moral world — by stanning serial killers.
When you think of Ted Bundy, don't you think of Chad Michael Murray?
"Ted Bundy" was trending once again thanks to the announcement of yet another tasteless movie based on true crime from director Daniel Farrands (The Haunting of Sharon Tate, The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson). Murray, the House of Wax and Cinderella Story star, will play Ted Bundy in the upcoming film, titled American Boogeyman..
Scheduled for theatrical release on August 16, the film is "set in a gritty and decadent 1970s America" following "the elusive and charming killer and the manhunt that brought him to justice involving the detective and the FBI rookie who coined the phrase 'serial killer.'"
People on Twitter were predictably mad, condemning the media's obsessive coverage of Ted Bundy. If the discourse about serial killers being glamorized seemed familiar, it's because we've pretty much recycled the same exploitative true crime content for years. For instance, remember when #TedBundy stans were feuding with #CharlesManson stans about which mad man was the most outstanding serial killer?
Hop into our time machine back to 2019 to ask the unthinkable: Have we as a society made...progress? Do we still fall prey to irony poisoning and give our outrage to online trolls? Do we finally take murder, like, seriously?
Indeed, Bundy's been treated like an American outlaw and anti-hero rather than a rapist, pedophile, and necrophiliac who confessed to murdering over 30 women throughout the 1970s. But while many have opposed pop culture's glamorization of mass murderers, certain niche communities on Twitter, namely self-proclaimed serial killer "stans," have taken issue with something else entirely: Who's more glam, Ted Bundy or Charles Manson?
Yes, in August 2019 it appeared that Manson fans and Bundy fans feuded over which of their favorite homicidal all-stars was the baddest bitch around. One of the earliest Tweets to mobilize murder "stans" came from a K-Pop fan account for the girl group BlackPink. Later, the user scoffed at people taking their trolling so seriously, but the damage was done.
The notion that "Charles Manson walked so that Ted Bundy could run bitch sit down," brought "Ted Nation" (no, we're not kidding) out to battle.
Charles manson walked so that ted bundy could run bitch sit down https://t.co/2NcqyXlMxx— keey (@keey)1565721813.0
anyways charles manson is a flop and ted bundy is a whole man 🥰🥰 https://t.co/42WUECJ1Jx— ♡ ted bundy stan ♡ (@♡ ted bundy stan ♡)1565813357.0
Granted, some opted to mix reason and logic into their trolling, declaring their love for Hannibal Lecter, the "supreme FICTIONAL serial killer, who has the superior courtroom fancam."
Have we become so desensitized to chaotic violence (with more mass shootings in 2019 than there were days in the year, and with 2021 following the same pattern so far), so immersed in doomsday thinking (what with the "existential threat" of climate change looming over us until 2050), and so acclimated to daily human rights abuses and obfuscation of truth that human decency is a social construct now, and murder is now sexy?!
No, not really. We've always been this gross, but now we have the Internet.
Executed by electric chair on January 24, 1989, Ted Bundy is often resurrected in the public eye by docuseries like Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, and films like Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, starring Zac Efron as Ted Bundy, and now with the upcoming American Boogeyman, starring Chad Michael Murray as Ted Bundy.
Accordingly, there's been a resurgence of Bundy-shaped hybristophilia, a sexual paraphilia and cultural phenomenon in which an individual derives sexual arousal and pleasure from having a sexual partner who is known to have "committed an outrage or crime, such as rape, murder, or armed robbery." They are, by and large, female (like Carol Ann Boone, who fell in love with and conceived Bundy's child while he was on death row), and they're commonly referred to as "prison groupies," "serial killer groupies," and now: serial killer stans.
And let's not forget Quentin Tarantino's recent revisionist history take on the Manson Family's murder of Sharon Tate in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Manson is also featured in season 2 of Netflix's crime drama Mindhunter, in which Damon Herriman plays the cult leader as a captivating madman.
But Twitter's collective recoil at young women expressing attraction to serial killers also fuels trolls, who love to goad people into outrage — in this case, by posing as Ted Bundy and Charles Manson "stan" accounts.
i liked the song that played at the end of episode 5 of Mindhunter S2 so I shazam’d it and it’s by Charles Manson 🤒 https://t.co/KE2OIM64ik— jamie rogers (@jamie rogers)1566006045.0
"Ted Nation" coming for Manson stans began as an inside joke. As one Bundy stan told Rolling Stone (anonymously, of course): "Basically, me and a small group of friends had a long running inside joke over who would win in a fight: Ted Bundy or Charles Manson. It was all 100% ironic and it was about six people in the group the first day."
Allegedly, the origin was just a group chat among friends, but then, he says, "Random people obviously found out and made more accounts, a lot of them being actually serious, which I found out this morning when I deactivated my Ted account." The unnamed source added, "A lot of people called us disgusting and told us to get raped or kill ourselves. But we kinda justified this by telling ourselves 'Well, we know we don't actually stan him' and knowing we were just parodies."
But in the age of online irony poisoning and millennial angst-induced nihilism, parody of a real phenomenon is tantamount to the real deal. #TedBundy soon became dominated by people expressing their outrage and disgust over people turning serial killers into lawless, cowboy-esque cultural icons, "parody" or not.
Many posts are similar to this one: "Just so we're clear, this man was not a hero. Ted Bundy wasn't someone who was kind or special. He was a misogynist who enjoyed murdering women. He wasn't some playful scamp, so please consider his victims."
Yall bitches who sexualize #TedBundy need Jesus https://t.co/Zy132f7hA4— Queen B (@Queen B)1566187914.0
Others pointedly re-directed conversations about serial killers' "legacies" to the remembrance of their victims.
Just so we're clear, this man was not a hero. Ted Bundy wasn't someone who was kind or special. He was a misogynist… https://t.co/SVwUnOVl9n— E.J. Hammon 💀🔪 (@E.J. Hammon 💀🔪)1565948458.0
While #TedBundy is trending, I’m going to take the opportunity to say that Ted Bundy deserved to feel every single… https://t.co/u8VSdnrBVj— ᴬᴮᴴᴼᴿᴿᴱᴺᵀ (@ᴬᴮᴴᴼᴿᴿᴱᴺᵀ)1566184295.0
"Stanning" serial killers is both a real neurosis and a script with which to act out the glitchy psychology of modern life. On the one hand, it's a deeply unsettling phenomenon that has occurred time and time again when violent men become spectacles of psychosis and societal antipathy.
At the same time, bored social scientists have long pointed out that intense celebrity fan worship is correlated with mental health, as "individuals with high levels of celebrity worship are more likely to have poorer mental health as well as clinical symptoms of depression, anxiety, and social dysfunction."
But with the Internet's labyrinthine folds of irony, cynicism, alienation, and our underlying need to make sense of chaos and disorder, we pretty much trust nothing. Why not make a mockery of worship by pretending to worship the darkest sides of humanity? Or mock the idea of a just, moral world by elevating immorality?
Everything we've traditionally worshiped as a society, from government to religion, has seemed to fail us, so why not invest your time in boy bands and beauty gurus, conspiracy theories and real-life boogeymen?
Surely, the answers have something to do with respecting victims' memories and their surviving family members, with not glorifying abject violence as not to encourage unhinged individuals to act on their impulses. But amidst tribalist political divides and human rights becoming a social construct, empathy seems to be a sacrifice of the post-irony, modern glitch.
Now, after the cries for social justice of 2020 and Kim Kardashian saving more lives than Texas, we recognize how hard it is not to give into the joke and see through the nihilism. But then again, Twitter remains the same in 2021 as it was in 2019: Some people are just assholes.
The CDC recommends that we don’t need a new Ted Bundy movie.— The Volatile Mermaid (@The Volatile Mermaid)1622055182.0
no more ted bundy movies. more female serial killer movies!— your own personal jesus (@your own personal jesus)1622063794.0