Thursday, September 27, 2012

Society's Obsession with Violence and Psychopaths

I remember something that happened when I was about 7 or 8 years old.  We were at a party at a friend of the family’s house.  My brother and I were hanging out with a girl we just met, probably in her preteens or a teenager but she was large and robust and I thought she was quite cool.  Suddenly, two moms started arguing over their children.  One child was mean to the other one and they were shouting and screaming at each other about how horrible the other's child was.  Next thing I knew, a cat fight broke out.  I saw hair flying and skin scratching and a lust to destroy the other woman.  Someone tried to break up the fight unsuccessfully.  He got pulled in and each time someone tried to break the fight up, they got pulled in as well.  Next thing I know, a rumble forms.  My brother and I watched this like spectators enjoying a football game.  I even recall our new friend jumping in and beating the shit out of someone else.  It was quite a sight.  People sitting on top of other people, bashing their brains in, women getting their hair pulled, men throwing punches, kids, women, men, all using this opportunity as a way to test their fighting skills.  Finally, a large man broke up the fight, speaking loudly about how we are friends and adults and how a lot of them should be ashamed of themselves.  Just like that, the fight was over. 

My parents were inside the whole time.  They missed everything.  The party went on as usual and people talked about it.  We saw the girl we were hanging out with and remarked at how brutal she was in the fight.  She seemed pretty proud of herself. My father asked us if we joined in and we said no, we just watched and he said, “good.  Stay out of trouble.”

I remember imagining being in that mob and wondering if I would be a fighter or if I would get my ass kicked.  I was amazed at how many people joined in.  I lived in Sydney at the time.  Kids liked to play rough and it was fun.  Fighting was part of playing and rugby and bullrush were a huge part of the playground games.  Adults didn't regulate how rough kids played.  No one saw the fight as weird or shameful.  It started and ended.  No one tried to sue anyone else. 

We have in us the genes of hunters.  We are territorial and we start battles and wars over turf and country. Some of us have romantic notions of violence and it perpetuates our media, our movies, and our stories.  This is what I think of when I look back on that memory.  I recall that the adults were being just as violent and aggressive as the kids.

As writers, we make choices. Vampire writers have a plethora of themes to explore, seeing how the vampire is such a great symbol of the human dark side. Violence is praised in art and the media. Audiences love a great psychopath, except in real life when he is killing and raping our loved ones. It is society’s obsession with a good bad guy that has caught my attention lately. This theme is a highly explored subject in literature today. The scary part is that many teenagers are embracing this theme and I almost feel obliged to warn them not to fall into the romantic notion of a mysterious bad guy who’s really a vampire vegan deep down inside. He wants to eat you, but he won’t because he loves you. My experience with sociopaths has taught me otherwise.

In my vampire novella, people either love or hate my protagonist, Linda. I’ve seen her adored and bashed by reviewers. One lady even said that she couldn’t read on because she hated her so much. I suppose I wanted to portray evil as it really was. Just because someone appears sympathetic, it doesn’t mean that they won’t seduce you, then eat you in cold blood. I also see audience members fall in love with Linda and her lack of shame for being the killer she is.

I think there is a part of many of us who wish that we could act like a sociopath. We want to punch our boss in the mouth for acting condescending. Or we want to kill that guy who tried to steal our girlfriend, but we don’t. We know there are consequences. However, on TV people do it all the time. They follow through on the actions we wish we could do ourselves and that’s why violence is so entertaining. The other possibility is that we really believe that fighting and killing will solve all our problems and reading and watching stories that involve these things make life more worthwhile. If that's the truth, then we are pretty screwed. Maybe we write about violence because we simply see it everywhere. We want to make sense of it somehow. I have nothing against books that have sympathetic vampire characters. Truly, we all have a little bit of good and evil in us. We’ve all done something bad and we all deserve forgiveness. The human condition (and the vampire condition) is such a complex subject and can be explored for ages.

One thing I know for sure is, we are too obsessed with the notion of violence being the answer to anything. Violence usually leads to more violence and destruction. It's unhealthy, yet for some reason people thirst for it. I suppose that we are starting to realize that violence isn't something that will perpetuate our race. However, violence seems to be inherent in nature and in evolution. Recently, I took a vacation at the Sequoia redwood forest, home of the world's largest trees. These trees survive on destruction. Forest fires help them procreate and it destroys their competition. They're immunity and reliance on the destructive fires enable them to survive for hundreds of years. From the destruction of others, they find life. We eat life so we can survive. We kill plants and animals. We crush bugs and kill bacteria with our lotions and antibiotics. We are violent by nature. It seems to be an unavoidable phenomenon, whether or not we are aware of it. Now I'm rambling. My mind can go on and on regarding this subject but I think I'll stop here.

To read more about why people love vampires, check out this blog:


  1. Hmmm. I abhor it, but admit I sometimes fantasize about punching people, slapping them, or searing holes in their cars with laser beams that come out of my eyes. Sometimes I fantasize about billboard holograms coming out of the roof of my car which flash MORON! ;) Maybe I'm more "girl" than I realize, I'd rather punish someone by making them feel bad!!!!!!

  2. lol Pel! Yes, I guess we're all guilty of violent thoughts.

  3. Great essay though-lots to think about--you brought up a number of interesting observations--keep writing about everything!