A couple of kids try their best to stab another kid to death. Nineteen stab wounds and the kid manages to survive, crawling out of the woods where she was abandoned to die, finding help from a passerby. It’s all over the news, so if you haven’t read about it, I’ll leave you to Google to find an article from your news source of choice.
These are twelve year old girls, and so the story has all sorts of elements making for headlines. Prepubescent kids don’t normally kill other prepubescent kids just for the hell of it. And even of the tiny subset that do, it doesn’t tend to be little girls that do it. “Man bites dog” and “if it bleeds it leads” don’t even do justice to the way this sort of story can draw an audience. And upon being questioned, one of the girls, the apparent driving force in the murderous pair, declared that they did it because they were inspired by Slenderman, or wanted to prove to him their bloody handed worthiness.
Congratulations, creepy pasta, you’ve gone mainstream and now conservatives are going to blame you for all the bad things in the world. Video games and roleplaying games will be at the awards dinner to place the traditional tiara of misplaced blame on your brow.
Doesn’t matter what it is, any sort of new media or art gets blame heaped on it for corrupting youth. And I use “new” in the very loose definition of “anything that was invented after the crankiest asshole in the crowd turned thirty”. Comic books were self-censored for forty years out of paranoia that they’d be banned for destroying the young. Chick tracts remain the most unintentionally hilarious publication to ever hit print. Video games are still called “murder simulators” in the right circles, and if a murderer happened to own a video game console, that’s still considered worth mentioning in even the briefest summary of a crime. My grandfather used to love to relate how when he was a kid, other kids weren’t allowed to see the Three Stooges because those movies would obviously teach children to be violent. So it goes.
But then a very troubling line can be drawn between the events of Santa Barbara and this new crime. Just to prop up the strawman that’s been sighted in various places around the Internet: why are horror stories not to blame for this crime, but the Men’s Rights movement carries some blame for Santa Barbara? Why is it correct to say that one external influence is unjustly maligned for the acts of an unbalanced mind, while in the other the external influence is held to some account?
The answer is partly one of agendas. It shouldn’t be controversial to say that telling a fictional story is not the same thing as arguing that the world should be a certain way. But I struggle with making that the line, because it has an underlying implication that our fictions don’t matter, which is something I vehemently reject. Our fictions are perhaps a more honest accounting of the way we think the world works than nonfiction or politics. And our fictions do have power, and certainly the power to change the way people think. I would certainly argue that stories that create protagonists out of misogynists are poisonous dreck that would be better off not existing, while not thinking that horror fiction creates serial killers, while at the same time believing wholeheartedly that stories with positive messages are a positive influence on society.
So this causes a consternation to me because it feels as if that last sentence is completely logically incoherent. And that’s not a comfortable place to be with regard to something that matters. Comments are below as always, let’s hash this out.
Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at www.burningviolin.com. You can email him here and order his novel here.