I had a conversation last week with Anna B. Volk about America’s fascination with understanding bad guys. It started with my fears about the upcoming live-action movie about Maleficent, the villainess from Sleeping Beauty. I’ve been a fan of Maleficent since I was a child because she was one of the only kids-movie villains that truly terrified me. She’s a bad guy in the truest sense of the word: she is, as she puts it, “the mistress of all evil.” There’s no reason for her campaign of fear against Princess Aurora, except for being pissed off that she didn’t get invited to a party sixteen years ago. She’s just mean. She’s evil. And that’s all you need to know.
And so I don’t like it that we’re rebooting her, giving her a Wicked-style back story. The thing that makes Maleficent so awesome is that, no matter what she went through in her childhood or what series of events led her to thinking that turning into a dragon and trying to obliterate people with her fire breath… that kind of behavior is not ok. Even if she started out totally normal and was horribly abused or raised in a culture that taught her that imprisoning people’s sweethearts and trying to kill baby princesses in really macabre ways was ok… the things she does are reprehensible. It’s not what her life was like that makes her a bad guy, it’s her decision to act that way that makes her the villain.
I’m all for learning to try to understand and forgive people. I don’t think that most people in real life are the unmitigated monsters of fairy tales. I really do want to believe that people have their reasons and that maybe if we were all more understanding and loving, less terrible things would happen. If we show more love to those who need it, maybe they in turn will show less hate in their actions, and so on. But there are some things that are unforgivable, beyond the reach of my imagination. There are some things that go beyond understanding. Things that, as far as I’m concerned, make you a villain. A bad guy. Even if on the inside you’re not a monster, there are things you may not do. It might be interesting to try to understand Maleficent’s evilness, but I really don’t think that I want to feel bad for her, or to sympathize with her at all. She’s the bad guy. She decided to be that way. Even if we find her intriguing, we shouldn’t find her right.
I’ve been keeping my eyes and ears open to stories about rape. This is a big topic for me, and I’d hope for other people as well. The recent rash of demonstrations in India in reaction to a brutal gang rape that led to the victim’s death has spurred a lot of conversation about the rape culture there, just like the August 2012 rape of a girl in Ohio did here. I’m happy that those stories have taken off and gotten international attention to a subject that needs to be reported more on, raised up, discussed, and worked on. I am glad to see more headlines about it and know that it’s not a hush-hush topic and that people want to change the way things are. I was even a proponent of the Reddit thread last year that opened up the floor to people who had been on the wrong side of the rape equation, because if we only talk about the victims we are missing so much.
But sometimes it is too much. Sometimes I want to throw rocks and scream. Some things are not ok.
A nine-year-old girl in Pakistan was raped by three men recently. There have been no demonstrations, and very little media attention. The police are looking for the suspects. Thirteen out of fourteen men who were brought to trial for gang-raping the Mukthar Mai in 2011. In India, even with the demonstrations going on now about the recent bus rape, six men have been arrested for abducting, confining, and gang-raping a woman who was riding a bus n Punjab last Friday. And “in yet another horrific incident, a woman who was traveling in a train bound for New Delhi was gang-raped and killed when she jumped out in between stops. A group of ‘inebriated people’ dragged the 32-year-old victim to a ‘nearby mango orchard’ where she was gang-raped and hung from a tree late on Saturday, reports the Times of India.”
THIS IS NOT OK. This is not sex. This is violence. This is evil. Using someone’s body as an outlet for your fucked-up impulses, as if it weren’t the vessel for a human soul… using your own body’s capacity for sexual actions as a weapon against another human being… That is so foul, so utterly and deeply and c0mpletely fucking sick. I don’t care what you’ve been through or what your life is like. I don’t care who you are or where you live. It is wrong. It makes you a villain. There is no excuse, there is no explanation good enough. This is part of an all-out war against women, for no reason whatsoever. What the fuck did women ever do to deserve this kind of treatment? Was it our attempts to get some kind of respect outside the home? Was it our reaching out for civil rights? Health care? Jobs? Lives? Dignity? How does that warrant this response? Please. Someone please tell me. I don’t understand. This is war on over half the world population. It is unprovoked and it makes me want to believe that some people really are just monsters, because that would make me less sick to my stomach.
I don’t want to think about this or talk about it, I want to hide from it. But it has to be talked about because this has to stop. I know it happens all the time, and everywhere, and maybe if I keep talking about it even when people don’t want to hear, maybe it’ll help somehow. I really want it to.