On Friday night, a gunman killed six people in Santa Barbara, and the killer himself was found dead with a gunshot wound to his head. Soon after police began investigating the crime, 22-year-old student Elliot Rodger emerged as the main suspect. Like many modern mass murders, this one left a robust digital trail, including a video Rodger recently posted to YouTube where he parks his BMW in front of a bank of palm trees and describes his plan to seek retribution from the women who have rejected him. Rodger calls himself the “perfect guy” and a “supreme gentleman” who’s been overlooked by women who prefer “obnoxious brutes.” Then he lays out his plans to “enter the hottest sorority house of [the University of California, Santa Barbara], and … slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up blonde slut I see inside there.” To “all those girls I’ve desired so much,” he says, “you will finally see that I am the superior one, the true alpha male.”
Our popular media, all our fictional narrative in movies and TV and video games, depend almost exclusively, surely over 90% of the time, on plots predicated in violence, and resolved only by violence in the end.
We have taught ourselves well, and clearly, we have learned the lesson. But this happens in an odd vacuum. All of the people who watch these violent movies and shows, and vicariously thrill in the release and justification of violence, have for the most part never experienced the aftermath of a real inter-personal violent act.
They judge only from fantasy of our media, which never shows what the real aftermath is like. The blood. The suffering. The heartache. The judgement on those who have committed violence.
I am reminded of the gun nut who recently set a trap for two teenagers, a boy and a girl, who were breaking into his house. Then proceeded to execute them. The girl was still alive after first couple shots. So he put a bullet carefully through her head “to end her suffering.” I am sure he was motivated by some movie plot he had seen, after all, we know the hero always has cool words to say before he blows the bad guy away. Right? We are poisoned by our popular culture. And violence is a key ingredient of that poison.