Elliot Rodger, Andrew Detmer: The Forest and the Trees

It’s been repeatedly brought to my attention that news sites are reporting Chronicle as a favorite film of Elliot Rodger’s.  In diving into the available information, I found an avalanche of information that provoked a strong response in me, everything from misogyny, the #yesallwomen movement, the nature of spree killers throughout history, the fact that this incident comes equipped with the sort of sensationalist talking points that make it easy to give it a superficial read, not to mention my own troublesome history with the mental health system at various levels.

Yesterday morning I was introduced to Elliot via a contextless Youtube video shown to me.  My girlfriend and I watched it, laughing, with her feeling like he was pathetic and me feeling like he was obviously trolling; surely no one this cartoonishly affected and evil could be serious?  Mumbling melodramatically about the sorority girls’ “cascading blonde hair.”  Breaking his rant, pathetically, as a car drove by, murmuring “…car…”

My own wrongness about this is sort of stuck in my head.

I cannot comment on the grief the families must be feeling, or the nature of Elliot Rodger’s breaking point.  I do feel compelled, however to give the situation an admittedly superficial read.  And what’s more superficial than a fictional character?

Andrew Detmer was purpose built as a victim. I wrote the character intentionally to feed on the audience’s sense of isolation; the idea that the problems of a “nerd” or “loser” aren’t their fault, and rather that they are just total victims of an unfair system.

Andrew’s “Apex Predator” rant, one of my proudest pieces of writing, ever, is designed to mimic the rants of power and control found in the manifestos of mass killers and the journals of school shootings.  The gaps in Andrew’s logic are obvious. A lion doesn’t feel guilty? It’s going to eat that gazelle, of course it doesn’t feel guilty, it’s trying to survive. Equating that to squashing a fly doesn’t even make sense. We’re looking at the steps. 3 steps removed from murder. Then 2.

Then the rampage in Seattle. Losing control.

But Andrew does nothing wrong in Chronicle. The glimmers of darkness we see in him, his instability, the death of Steve, even his final rampage, are all sort of smashed into the character by outside forces. That’s why he’s byronic. We want him to prevail, almost.

I’m endlessly proud of this portrayal. Dane DeHaan brought something special to it, and the role became minorly iconic. He was a tragic hero, not a monster.  He was intended as dark, broken look at a “real” Peter Parker.

I did this because he was the film’s protagonist. But real spree shooters, like Rodger and those before him, are rarely sympathetic. They take everyday frustrations and turn them wars. They take every day emotions and turn them into carnage. These guys are their own protagonist.  They always have a manifesto.  But the manifesto isn’t the real plan; we all have a manifesto of inadequacy, bitterness, jealousy and anger.  It’s our internal monologue.  It’s inside us.

The problem they say they have is never the real problem. The problem is that they can’t deal with the problem. They can’t see the forest for the trees.

Every loser wants control.

Every outcast wants to be an apex predator.