New documentary may say more about viewer than killer

Ted Bundy with longtime girlfriend Elizabeth Kendall, one of the primary voices in a new Amazon Prime documentary series.

What is it about true crime stories that captivate audiences in this day of TV streaming and podcasts? Why are we, as consumers of media, drawn to macabre tales of brutality that caused and continue to cause real anguish for real people? 

I will leave it up to the psychologists and sociologists of the world to answer the specifics of these questions, but I think the overall answer is pretty clear: as Laura Healy (mother of the second of Ted Bundy’s victims, Lynda Ann Healy) says, it “makes for great entertainment.” 

I know that sounds harsh, but why else would we seek this type of media out in our free time? When it comes to the story of Ted Bundy in particular, this fascination becomes harmful and callous when, as Healy says, the media discounts “the stories of the women in favor of the central hero.” This is an oversight that Amazon Prime’s new miniseries Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer attempts to address with varying degrees of success.

By focusing on Bundy’s victims instead of the man himself, Falling for a Killer offers plenty of significant context and background that is often lost in other true crime documentaries. What the creators didn’t seem to understand, however, is that sometimes too much context can be a bad thing. Falling for a Killer has many tangents that, while always related to the main narrative (for lack of a better word), often tried my attention span. 

While it was inspiring and important to learn about the female reporter breaking the glass ceiling before she turned to the Bundy story, for instance, this slight digression could have been cut to keep the focus on the main events of the case. I often found my mind wandering during the documentary’s five hour run time because of this, and the uninspired visual style of the miniseries didn’t help either. It’s not a great sign when I can write in my notebook for twenty minutes, just listening, and not feel like I missed anything imperative on the screen.

Here’s what I’m getting at: While Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer is undoubtedly a much-needed and long overdue exploration of the true heroes of the story, Bundy’s victims, it is not great entertainment. Regrettably, some of this is because of the focus itself. It is much more appropriate to focus on the victims, but I believe people subconsciously want to focus on the monster because that is what we do when we consume horror stories. 

If you would allow me to get on my soapbox for a moment, this is something we need to change when dealing with real people. That being said, Falling for a Killer also could have gone to much greater lengths to make itself more entertaining, as that would be the best way to get its point across. How could they have done that outside of tighter focus and better visuals? I don’t know; I am not a documentary maker. All I know is that Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer is significant programing that should have attempted to be more captivating.

Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer is now available on Amazon Prime.