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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