"Another villain on the cover of every major magazine, the victim somewhere in between."
- The Verve Pipe "Villains"
What a difference a week makes. One week ago, most people didn't know the name Chris Benoit. Now, he has posthumously become a far bigger celebrity than he ever was in life. And all he had to do to achieve this newfound fame was tie his wife's hands and feet, strangle her with a cable cord, and use a choke hold to end the life of his mentally handicapped 7-year-old son. Next thing you know, poof, he's larger than life. Why is that?
The generation now coming of age has been defined by tragedy. 9-11. The Oklahoma City bombing. Waco, Texas. The Unibomber. Columbine. Virginia Tech. The list goes on. The events and the perpetrators may be different, but one thing remains constant. The villains are always remembered and celebrated in a media frenzy, and the victims are always treated as extraneous details, irrelevant sidenotes forgotten by all but the families left behind by the acts of someone whose face they see every time they turn on the TV or read a magazine or newspaper.
Why is it we as a society treat tragedies in this manner? Remember the villain, forget the victim. Is it just easier to remember someone who commits a monstrous act than it is to remember the victim of such acts? Do we forget the victims in a subconscious attempt to de-humanize such tragedies because the reality is too unpleasant to cope with? Does the media assume that the villain's story is much more interesting than the victim's? Are they right about that assumption? Do we as a society really want to hear 15 of the villain's closest family and friends talk about how he always seemed like such a nice guy, as opposed to hearing how the victims' families are coping with the tragedy? Do we really think that if we scrutinize the villain's life until we find some convenient, rational excuse to blame the tragedy on, it will somehow lessen the tragic nature of the act? Do we try to make the villain out to be something larger than life because we don't want to accept that a regular human being could do something so monstrous? Do we have a perverse bloodlust that we satisfy by indulging in as much media coverage of tragedies as we can get? Are we possibly not as advanced as we like to think we are? Is the media coverage of tragedies our contemporary equivalent of Roman gladiatorial games?
I'm not suggesting I have answers to any or all of these questions. I think these are questions that people need to look at individually and decide how they themselves want to view these situations before our attitudes as a society can change. Of course, you can make the argument that the attention we give these villains is not positive attention, and that's a valid point. However, to many people, there's not much difference between positive and negative attention. Especially when we're talking about someone who no longer wants to live and has decided to go out in a spectacular firestorm of violence and death.
What I am suggesting, is that maybe if we spent more time focused on the victims, we could remind ourselves more of the human aspect of the tragedies, instead of looking at it is a glorified action movie. Because as it is now, we live in a society where all you have to do to get your fifteen minutes of fame, is kill a few people. And that may be the most depressing thought of all. That the suffering of friends and families only contributes to more suffering from more friends and families.