When did society get to the point that 20-year-olds see their lives as hopeless? In a country that prides itself on freedom, liberty and second chances, how does a killer like Elliot Rodger emerge? In one of the sickest and most twisted shootings since the infamous Columbine massacre of 1999, Elliot Rodger has become the talk of the town, in a way that the Batman killer James Holmes and others couldn’t. While many see Rodger’s story as the tale of a spoiled little brat, there seems to be a bit more empathy toward this young man than any other killer, and maybe this shows how society is on the brink more than we want to believe.
The night was May 23. It was a usually lovely summer night in Santa Barbara until Rodger decided to bring vengeance to all those he felt had banished him to live in “loneliness” while others lived a life of sexual liberation and freedom. Rodger saw his 22 years of life as a waste because he was a virgin, even though he came from a wealthy family, had a nice car and saw himself as “the perfect gentleman.” He thought that if he acted the part right, women would swoon over him. He thought that college was where his sexual fantasies would come to life. He thought he’d live the perfect Hollywood frat-boy dream, but he was wrong. And because of a warped and sick worldview, he stabbed his roommates and shot several young men and women.
One theory that is getting a lot of traction comes from a Washington Post writer named Ann Hornaday. She attacks the very Hollywood system that Rodger’s dad works for:
“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”?
At first glance, the theory seems ridiculous. Blaming summer comedies for a mass murder? The theory echoes Columbine in the way that entertainment is made the root cause. Remember that those killers fed themselves a healthy diet of video games and Marilyn Manson music. But if the visuals and ideas we consume don’t affect us, then what, exactly, does?
The glorification of sex is the theory behind George Sodini shooting up a woman’s aerobics class in 2009 in Pennsylvania because he too was “lonely.” There are websites now promoting the Men’s Rights Activist Movement, which calls for men not to be pushovers with women.
The Snapchat, Facebook, Instragram, Twitter post-feminist generation of today has created a way for everyone to hookup immediately and then post the adventures online for an audience to live vicariously through. Girls today have no problem sexualizing themselves with bikini pics and girls’-night-out photos, and boys feel free to flirt and crudely joke all over social media.
In all reality, no generation has been bombarded by sex this much in the history of our modern Western civilization. No one older than 30 really understands what life for high school- and college-age kids must be like, constantly flipping through page after page of social media, plus watching party film after party film, plus song after song, plus TV show after TV show, day after day and night after night, and then going home alone where hours of free pornography fills the World Wide Web. We used to be able to go home alone and watch The Cosby Show. Now our society watches cop shows about murder, bachelors and bachelorettes, and listens to the songs of Ke$ha, who is “calling timber” and partying like P-Diddy. Keep in mind that The Beatles sang about lonely hearts and Eleanor Rigby.
Nothing excuses evil behavior. Elliot Rodger did an evil act. But if he’s so isolated, then why did Facebook have to take down an “Elliot Rodger is An American Hero” page? Maybe we need to step back and see who people like Roder’s are, because maybe society is more on the brink than we want to admit.