Humanity has never accepted me among them, and now I know why. I am more than human. I am superior to them all. I am Elliot Rodger… Magniﬁcent, glorious, supreme, eminent… Divine! I am the closest thing there is to a living god.
Coming from the pen of a young man who lamented in his diaries a resentment for his mixed race background, shy personality, shortness, lack of social skills and mediocrity in just about everything, the quote above feels alien. In his 137 pages manifesto My Twisted World the massacrer of Isla Vista recounts his whole life from a pure childhood to troubled teenage tears and eventually a hellish adolescence. Reading it gives us a glimpse of how monsters are born. One can question whether the writer is honest, whether the stories given are true, but as of now it is as close as we get to understanding what eventually led to seven people dying and thirteen being severely injured.
As I ﬁrst saw Rodger’s delusional youtube videos and read a collection of quotes from his manifesto on the LA Times, I immediately thought about Bret Easton Ellis, the author who is notoriously famous for his depiction of narcissistic, male-perpetrated violence. It took me months to ﬁgure out how any author could write stories such as Less Than Zero or American Psycho. Was the depravity in them real, was the author himself leading a morbid life of unrestricted sex, drug use and violence? Later on I learned that Ellis’ attempts of blaming his father or surroundings, LA and Wall Street, were just fabrications. His rage was his own; he basically wrote about himself.
Words such as ‘tall’, ‘blonde’, ‘good looking’, ‘popular’, ‘conﬁdent’ etc. abound in Rodger’s writings. From an early age he came to hate everything that he was not, and constantly reﬂected on his weaknesses. The fact that he was the son of a famous ﬁlm producer, Peter Rodgers (assistant producer of The Hunger Games) and therefore was living an easy life didn’t seem to matter. Sure enough he was embarrassed when he had to take a bus to school or when his divorced mother was forced to move to a less prestigious, lower class area, but overall he had a privileged life – and apparently a loving family. The setting is Ellis-esque, just reversed: There was a world of tan, rich,beautiful, tall, blonde people, the scions of famous LA ﬁlm producers and directors. A world of constant lust, rivalry and dionysiac intoxication, a freeway of hedonism. Rodger, unlike the young protagonist Clay from Less Than Zero, just wasn’t part of it and that started to feed his hunger for death. In the end the world he so much wanted to belong to was just another illusion, one that would’ve have brought him misery, maybe of a different kind, but still: Misery.
Rodger started to alienate himself from the world around him early on. At 13 years old he found out about sex, a thing that “–truly destroyed my entire life”, when he saw an older boy watching porn at Planet Cyber, a cyber café where he would retreat from the real world to drown himself in World of Warcraft. His struggle with sex had started earlier, though. As a meek boy who was insecure about his looks (mixed race, dark hair, short for his age), he had already been bullied countless times – or at least had felt feelings of rejection. For him, however, to be targeted by girls was the worst thing ever. In his manifesto he recounts more than few instances of being shamed by girls in front of others.He became so scared of girls that he would avoid them for the rest of his life.
It’s really hard to say whether he actually was harassed so much that, for years to come, he would have to change schools frequently. Many a time the fault is in our perception rather than what’s “really out there”. Maybe Rodger was just too sensitive, maybe he saw things that really weren’t there. He blamed the world for its primitive harshness, its competitive nature. In contrast to the savage days of his adolescence he portrays days of childhood; pure, egalitarian and without sexual tension. Whatever life really is, he wasn’t armed to survive it, he seemed to think. It’s hard to believe that he couldn’t ﬁnd his place, his people, in our vast world.
To me, it seems, his fate was a self-inﬂicted, slow but sure death through hatred and reclusion. It didn’t help that he was pampered, especially by a mother who brought him every possible gadget the very instance her son required it. It would be too simple to declare that Rodger ﬁts into some pre-determined mold of a young school shooter – because there isn’t one. What Rodger went through in his life is shared by millions of young people every single day, and without questioning his subjective experiences, in much worse ways. Many of these shooters share similarities, however: Shy, lonely, ‘unattractive’, reclusive, harboring dark thoughts, spending time in imaginary worlds (video games or not), bullied, a tendency to oscillate between hating and
deifying self, likely to write overly dramatic manifestos before slaughtering ‘enemies’, and so on.
The world is indeed an unfair place, but most of this unfairness arises from us clinging to it so hard. We think we are entitled to whatever happens to be in vogue in the age we happen to be born into, whether it’s fame, unlimited sex or a dashing career. But we are not. We are not entitled to anything, and whatever we receive becomes what we think of it. Failing to realize the transience of life will result in suffering much greater than Rodger could have ever imagined in his own delusion.
As these young killers almost without exception take their only lives, too, we never get to learn what fed their rage. For that task we have, thankfully, writers. After years of living in denial, Ellis ﬁnally came out of the closet as a gay man in 2012. The vicious things he had been writing about were fueled by his shame, his hatred of himself. He never was a tall, blonde, chiseled, tan alpha male like all his protagonists. His simultaneous hate and love for such men is so explicit in his books. They prey on women like modern day pickup artists (well, the female characters do the same really; everybody in his worlds are totally fucked up), to reinforce the masculinity born out of Hollywood decadence. In every story, however, there are ﬂeeting moments of doubt when these hyper masculine men reveal a shade of doubt in their persona. Does this doubt fuel their rage?
Rodger thought he was entitled to (romantic) love, but he never cared to see that his very essence radiated hate, fear and envy. The women he so much wanted naturally sensed what he really was – and hated and feared him for it.
The sad thing is that he never really had to become the monster that he did. Reading through his manifesto feels like a dirty, morbid act; it’s dwelling deep in someone’s private life, reading about a now dead man’s ﬁrst love, rejection, sexual experience — everything. But if trespassing his soul can teach us about how much loved, happy small boys become instruments of death, then it’s well worth it.
Written by Sebastian Koskinen, Pictures: Creative Commons