Dexter, Depravity, Media and Madness
Ever since the Christmas where we decided to watch the original four “The Omen” movies as a family when I was a kid, I’ve had the inclination to contemplate the nature of evil during the holiday season.
I watched season five of “Dexter” in its entirety yesterday and it got me thinking down that path, evaluating my own stance on what is or is not evil and the depths of human depravity.
I have never considered myself a good person. I don’t believe in ‘fair play’ or that everyone is created equal. I don’t support the underdog and I despise charity. But I also don’t support random acts of violence, rape, senseless murder or illogical oppression. I am, without doubt, not an evil person. I fall somewhere in the vast, grey area between. My deep and defining narcissism would tell me that I am beyond good and evil, like some sort of Nietzchean Übermensch, but I know that isn’t true.
Since I don’t give a damn about year-old spoilers and anyone who cares about the “Dexter” universe has already seen it, season five pits Dexter against a group of men who abduct, rape, torture and finally kill women and have been for a number of years. When I think of people who don’t deserve to live, this type of person is at the top of the list. The one member who never takes part in the depravity, who only orders the others around and eggs them on is a different sort of monster, but one equally as bad, like Charlie Manson in a way.
The question this planted in my head was: Would any of these men have done this individually? It’s hard to answer with any certainty.
Examples exist of that kind of evil all in one person; Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, etc. But it seems to me that most of the great evils in the world are perpetrated by groups. The larger the group, the more heinous the act. From the insanity of Jamestown to the horrors of the Holocaust, groups get together and the mob mentality takes over. The self is gone and replaced with the group. Detached from personal beliefs and morals, inhibitions die and monsters are born. What is bad in a person becomes magnified when given permission by the group. When what is depraved is granted acceptance, even encouragement, it becomes the norm. When the extreme becomes the center, the extremes start getting more and more insane.
This mirrors the media in a way. Moderate, sane messages don’t sell newspapers or advertising anymore because we become desensitized to increasingly sensational headlines. Even situations that are not dire or exciting are given a grand banner to catch a reader’s attention, “Inferno at Religious Gathering; Wrath of God Visited on Local Park” ends up being a story about a minor grease fire at a local church picnic with no injuries or significant property damage. Things like this rob words like inferno of their punch. When minor events are given such a stage on which to perform, the big events that actually warrant these types of headlines, and get them, lose their significance and things that really do matter become mere background noise.
Even here, when writing about it, I’ve taken it to the extreme. Maybe, as a society, we need to get back to basics, away from the extremes, clean things up, take a deep breath and let the sensational rest for a while. When the extreme levels of sex and violence required to draw an emotional response from today’s jaded audience are required, maybe it’s time to pull back and let temperance become popular again. It might just be different and shocking enough to rock the world and turn things around.
What do you consider evil? What does it take to shock you? How do you feel about the media?