Control: Fictional Bad Guys vs. Real Bad Guys

I, Dalton Lewis, play a few video games a lot. In these video games I kill hundreds of people and get called a hero for doing it. In real life few people who kill hundreds of people are innocent. Mass Effect — and I’m referring to Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, and Mass Effect 3 — that series really speaks to me and shows me a cinematic experience equivalent to a lot of big-budget movies, only with better writing. Why do we love this stuff? What is it about action scenes that make us obsess about fighting bad guys? Why do I kill video game enemies all day long? It doesn’t make sense.

I mean that many — if not most — of our most famous movies of the last few years center on a fight between good guys and bad guys. Hamlet and The Iliad are certainly two literary examples of these, but in recent years the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Star Wars movies have dominated box office results figures showing huge battle scenes. As Kick-Ass noted, the superheroes don’t seem real, but the bad guys sure are. Plenty of bad people have killed dozens of people in mass shootings or serial murders in the past few years.

I’ve never fought a bad guy. I’ve never had anything to do with a fight against a bad guy. I could read countless books about mental illness and a fight against that mental illness, but instead I watch movie after movie about people fighting battles and saving galaxies from weather dominators. I don’t know why we don’t want more literature that reflects our worries and fears. I think that we do, but we want it presented in a flashy and entertaining way. The Iliad, by Homer, is a war story about a guy who quits the fight and says that fighting is wrong. Keep in mind that this is 2800 years ago, and this guy, in the far past, says that fighting is wrong. He gives it up. Then his beloved friend dies, and he flies into a rage, says fuck you, and proceeds to attack the Trojans and wage furious war to avenge his friend. I don’t remember any epic poems about a farmer saving lives from that era that are still remembered. We just remember Homer and his action sequences and huge, operatic love and war sagas.

How do we write about this? I don’t know much about real world combat. I don’t know how to fight. I have never, in my adult life, fought anyone. I have — in video games — fought countless bad guys and saved galaxies from dastardly threats. Our entertainment culture has taught us that bad guys need to be killed and stopped. We have created a culture which causes people to shoot up places in mass shootings. People identify themselves as bad guys and try to kill as many people as they can. Many of these people are racists or homophobes, killing gay people or immigrants or African-Americans. They are the bad guys of stories made real, made flesh. We still haven’t created superheroes, though.

What do we do about these shootings? Young people might want gun control — which previous generations fought desperately hard to prevent. I know that any bad guy can seem to be able to buy a gun. In real life guns kill people quickly and brutally. I don’t know why people argue so much about these political agendas. I don’t know what to do and admit it. I just think that these racists and homophobes and villains who hate people so much that they want to kill people need help or something. A friend of mine, Sal, thinks that he was on a watch list during our teen years, some twenty years ago. I remember that the authorities caught a couple people with guns in the parking lot of our high school, but no one shot up the place. During my freshman year some idiots tried to form a chapter of the KKK but were stopped by the adults before they did anything.

I am mentally ill and therefore cannot carry a gun. Some mentally ill people have trouble figuring out what is real and what is not real. We do not suddenly want to shoot people. Still the desire to shoot up a place is apparently an American phenomenon. We have a lot of Americans who want to shoot up places and kill a lot of people. I don’t know what makes us want to be villains — to stand up and say, I am so miserable that I will try to kill people to express what is wrong with the world.

We aren’t figuring it out. We don’t know what these mass murderers are trying to say about what is wrong with their lives. We haven’t addressed what hurt these racists and homophobes so badly. I don’t know what is wrong with them. I don’t know why they looked at their lives and decided to die trying to kill as many people as possible.

Incels is the new word for people who are involuntarily celibate — men who hate women because no one will put out. I understand the concept but not the rage that men feel at not having a girlfriend or wife. The New York Times writes about a theory that most mass shooters are men who hate women, and I tend to agree. Apparently these men find places online which sympathize with them and encourage them to shoot and kill innocent people, blaming society for something that is clearly the fault of the attacker. I don’t know what to say — something is wrong with a society that creates and allows this much hatred. We are not close to solving this. I’m sorry.

Thanks, and take care, friends.

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