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What “You” and “Extremely Wicked” tell us about the scathing reality of White Male Privilege

"Even in death, Ted damaged women," Rule wrote. "To get well, they must realize that they were conned by the master conman. They are grieving for a shadow man that never existed."

Watching the “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil & Vile” trailer over the weekend (starring Zac Efron) reveals what many critics have already taken note of: Efron humanises Ted Bundy and makes the notorious serial killer seem: charismatic, loving and even a “Family man”. Whilst some have debated that this representation of Ted Bundy is accurate, they fail to see that the sheer romanticisation of the serial killer in this film trivialises his violent actions towards women. It becomes even more apparent that the cinema world have neglected to highlight the damaging effects of creating a film that so closely resembles an action/thriller - especially as this film is *supposed to* shed light on Ted Bundy. Why must we see inside the brain of this serial killer? At what point do we consider the danger of popularising his history. If we begin to question the power dynamics Bundy flexed in his homicidal actions, it becomes apparent that damaging, raping and dismembering women was Bundy’s way of completely denying/stripping them of power and in many ways is reflective of the sheer powerlessness of women in society.

Now that the social media frenzy is over surrounding Penn Badgley’s Netflix series “You”, we can FINALLY talk about why his character, Joe, seems to be exempt from punishment. Joe murders multiple characters (including his love interest, Beck), with little remorse. In his multiple close encounters with the police force - Joe - by being the clean cut white man - is saved by the inherent innocence surrounding narratives of whiteness, which in turn make him a culmination of “superior” racial and gender expectations and ideals. Joe’s ability to navigate comfortably in certain spaces (and around Beck’s ignorant friends) is very much situated in his whiteness. Badgley himself calls on this topic in his SiriusXM interview, stating that “white male privilege is often so blinding that white men are the most dangerous because of the freedom it gives” It then becomes apparent that in showing us Joe’s continuous escape from capture or suspicion, Badgley creates a character that speaks to us as women, and as Black women. Dangerous white men having the power to so freely move around in society is what scares us the most. Having the ability to transcend various boundaries based on your physical characteristics makes us feel that, as women, we are not safe from men, and in a system deeply entrenched in layers of patriarchy, we cannot be protected from them.


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