Ann Hornaday at WaPo:
As deranged manifestos go, the final YouTube video made by suspected Isla Vista, Calif., mass murderer Elliot Rodger was remarkably well-made. Filmed by Rodger in his black BMW, with palm trees in the background and his face bathed in magic-hour key light, the six-minute diatribe — during which he vows revenge on all the women who rejected him and men who were enjoying fun and sex while he was “rotting in loneliness” — might easily have been mistaken for a scene from one of the movies Rodger’s father, Peter Rodger, worked on as a director and cinematographer.
Indeed, as important as it is to understand Rodger’s actions within the context of the mental illness he clearly suffered, it’s just as clear that his delusions were inflated, if not created, by the entertainment industry he grew up in. With his florid rhetoric of self-pity, aggression and awkwardly forced “evil laugh,” Rodger resembled a noxious cross between Christian Bale’s slick sociopath in “American Psycho,” the thwarted womanizer in James Toback’s “The Pick-Up Artist” and every Bond villain in the canon.
As Rodger bemoaned his life of “loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desire” and arrogantly announced that he would now prove his own status as “the true alpha male,” he unwittingly expressed the toxic double helix of insecurity and entitlement that comprises Hollywood’s DNA. For generations, mass entertainment has been overwhelmingly controlled by white men, whose escapist fantasies so often revolve around vigilantism and sexual wish-fulfillment (often, if not always, featuring a steady through-line of casual misogyny). Rodger’s rampage may be a function of his own profound distress, but it also shows how a sexist movie monoculture can be toxic for women and men alike.
How many students watch outsized frat-boy fantasies like “Neighbors” and feel, as Rodger did, unjustly shut out of college life that should be full of “sex and fun and pleasure”? How many men, raised on a steady diet of Judd Apatow comedies in which the shlubby arrested adolescent always gets the girl, find that those happy endings constantly elude them and conclude, “It’s not fair”?
Movies may not reflect reality, but they powerfully condition what we desire, expect and feel we deserve from it. The myths that movies have been selling us become even more palpable at a time when spectators become their own auteurs and stars on YouTube, Instagram and Vine. If our cinematic grammar is one of violence, sexual conquest and macho swagger — thanks to male studio executives who green-light projects according to their own pathetic predilections — no one should be surprised when those impulses take luridly literal form in the culture at large.
Both Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen defended themselves via Twitter, using words like “insulting,” “misinformed” and “idiotic.” Their comments are similar to those of gun owners and NRA officials whenever guns get blamed for one of this tragedies. Both arguments for blame rely on truthiness and/or partial truth rather than Truth.
Obviously if there were no guns there would be no gun crimes. But that’s like saying if there were no cars there would be no drunk driving. Rwanda is a prime example of what can happen when people want to commit mass murder and there are no guns available. They used machetes instead.
On the other hand, blaming Hollywood for our violent, sexist culture is a chicken and the egg argument. Which came first? Does Hollywood create culture or merely reflect it?
The media is in something of a quandary. The usual “blame the NRA” narrative doesn’t quite seem to fit. This murder spree took place in California where there are already very restrictive gun laws and the killer is directly connected to Hollywood liberalism. He was a privileged child of one of the Hollywood elites, and Hollywood is a bastion of liberalism. He was a fan of the “Young Turks” YouTube channel, which is to the left of MSNBC.
The killer’s deranged manifesto paints a clear portrait of misogyny, but the identity and ideology of the killer run counter to the Democrat’s “GOP War on Women” narrative. Attacking Hollywood is heresy for today’s liberals.
Once again, everyone avoids the obvious. A mentally disturbed young man did something insane. Lots of people knew he was crazy and was talking about doing something bad. The police had a chance to intervene before it happened but did nothing.
If we are going to blame someone besides the killer or those who knew but who failed to stop him, why don’t we blame the media? Every time they glorify a mass killer they encourage other lunatics to emulate him. We could make a law prohibiting the publicizing of these atrocities, but that would be censorship. Even worse, think what it would do to their ratings!
Or maybe we should just shrug our shoulders sadly at the high cost of living in a free society. Because when it comes down to it, freedom is really to blame. Every single option in the Blame Game focuses on taking away some of our freedom. If we had less freedom, perhaps we could eliminate some of society’s ills.
But then we would be less free.