On Elliot Rodger and Social Dialogue

For a long time I’ve studied mass killers, with a focus on the school shooter variety. I know it’s a strange topic, but it’s for a novel I’m working on. Up until recently I’ve been insecure concerning the authenticity of my villain, due to the complications of such characters. Why do young adults shoot up schools or other highly populated areas? I personally think that whatever part mental illness plays it is coupled with the fact that their lives have been for their own short term satisfaction and selfish benefit. With that in mind they don’t have the ability to do something that will stand the test of time. It is the idea of being forgotten that justifies (in their damaged thought process) the action that needlessly snuffs out life. It comes down to a grand finale, a violent outburst that becomes their only option for doing something that will be remembered. Does violence make one’s life worthwhile? A celebrity obsessed culture seems to validate such perspective. While I have a variety of sources that range from academic articles to personal letters from an imprisoned school shooter it’s still difficult for me to personally craft a motive for my character, and the shape that took form wasn’t exactly what I envision when I think of such people. My villain is an obsessive misogynist. It is the seed that took root and gave bloom to the flowers of social rage, and eventually bore the wretched fruit of violent misanthropy. Could I really have my character (no matter how mentally off) claim that the source of his discontentment was his inability to conform a woman to personally owned object?

Elliot Rodger apparently wrote a manifesto that reached well over one hundred pages, but what will stand the test of time and be scrutinized is the six minute video he posted the day before his rampage in Santa Barbra. While the subculture that embraces such violence equates these videos to manifestos the films are little more than press kits. I watched it the day his rampage was reported, and thought it was different than what I’ve seen in the past, but brushed it off as just another one. His rage wasn’t the broad rant against all of society, but against women in general. I found it off putting, but still had a hard time taking him seriously. Did you really go out and kill a bunch of people because the objectification of your desire can think for herself? His fake laugh and vulnerable confessions resulted in me not thinking much of this pathetic rant, and all but erasing it from my short term memory as the typical social outrage played out in the media. Both sides took to their designated posts on the gun rights/mental illness debate that follows every one of these tragedies, and yet this repeated type of bloodshed brings forth little in the way of social progress in the aftermath.

Then I noticed this #YesAllWomen conversation that started to surface in my social networking feeds. Declarations against the objectification/dehumanization of women would be met with threats of rape posted by those masked through the filter of the screen. The conversation has been on full blast since then, and I personally think it’s a good thing. Not the rape threats, but the worthwhile dialogue that is still taking place. This isn’t to suggest that it will wipe out misogyny in our culture, but change starts at the level of the individual. From the Renaissance era documentation that defines a good wife as a reflection of her husband to the notion of patriarchy in Hitchcock’s film Vertigo as commented on by feminist critic Modleski that man’s great desire concerning women is his own reflection- much hasn’t changed. It seems we must culturally reflect upon how we regard each other, instead of paralleling women with our own narcissism. With that in mind male entitlement and the objectification of woman has been viewed as acceptable throughout history, but that does not justify it’s continuation.

 

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The Question of Hitler and Satire

Growing up in America I’ve come to terms with the political atmosphere breeding the extremes of rage and/or apathy. The blatant truth is that George Bush wasn’t Hitler. Likewise Barack Obama isn’t Hitler, either. But what if Adolf Hitler did come back, not reincarnated into another figure but as he was in early April 1945?

The first novel of German journalist Timur Vermes addresses just how far celebrity culture has reached. The return of an historical figure to the modern world isn’t a fresh approach to satire. Another such engagement was John Niven’s novel The Second Coming which brought Jesus Christ to the United States. But Vermes’ novel Look Who’s Back drops Hitler off on a patch of grass in Berlin during the August of 2011. He is without memory of killing himself, or of anything else up until he awoke in contemporary times. His looks are spot on, and his demeanor reflects that of Hitler, but he is generally received as an actor who refuses to break character. When interviewed by a talent agency they come to the conclusion that this improv routine isn’t funny. It’s dry, full of historical references, and is delivered with the awkwardness one would expect when engaging in a realistic conversation with Adolf Hitler. He’s no Charlie Chaplin, and he doesn’t bother with slapstick. Even still he is given a chance. Making an appearance on a televised program, Hitler’s rant goes viral, and he becomes a star. It’s through this media platform that Hitler believes he will establish a legitimate following that will enable him to once again take control of Germany.

Before I read the novel I checked out a few message boards to find the grand debate of whether or not Hitler would be an appropriate figure from which to derive satirical comedy. It’s strange how that online conversation seemed to be one of the central themes, and how closely it reflected the individuals within that debate. The older generation that had lived through the atrocities of Hitler’s Germany has been left reasonably haunted to such an extent that it’s just not appropriate. In the novel Hitler’s personal assistant quits her job when her grandmother becomes aware of whom she’s working for and declares, “What that man does is not funny. It’s nothing to laugh about.” Yet it was Hitler’s unorthodox approach that gets him threatened and assaulted by real Nazi loyalists. Comedy and satire has the capability to undermine the authority of tyrannical figures, but it happens to be those hurting the most who have the hardest time facing it in any light. It appears as though if Hitler were to come back in such a fashion, he’d resemble Stephen Colbert more than any politician. In spite of this new life path Hitler maintains his goals of world domination and German superiority in the face of those under the impression that it’s all an act.

 

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