As we still – as individuals and as a nation – reel from the tragic events on Las Vegas, villainy is at the top of our collective minds. Not only were the events Sunday night horrific, but it brought out some truly dark and divisive comments in society, including people who claimed that the victims didn’t need relief money because “they were rich” to the now-former CBS attorney who said the victims were undeserving of sympathy because “country fans were mostly Republicans” (apology since posted).
Yesterday, Becky posed the question that with all this going on, why do we even need fictional villains? Real life seems more than capable of providing enough villainy for everyone. Of course I–like her–believe we do need fictional villains because we need fictional heroes. We need triumph. And you can’t have a hero without a villain. The bigger the hero, the bigger the villain.
But it strikes me there’s another, more insidious, type of villain at large in society. One that is more difficult to overcome.
Events like natural disasters and mass shootings can bring on despair like nothing else. What can we do? We’re just little cogs in a big wheel. We seem to be doomed, so why bother?
Once again, I think fiction comes to the rescue. If we can write and read about the triumph of heroes, there’s hope for us. Soldiers, cops, firemen, private detectives, fabric store owners, pet shop owners, clockmakers, Quaker midwives–all these heroes look at the circumstances in their own lives and say, “no.” They could turn around and walk away. Yes, even the professionals. There are other jobs out there. But they don’t. They look despair and chaos firmly in the eye and say, “not in my town.”
I think we need that. Too much grimness and depression clogs the news cycle. We need to see someone triumph to believe we can triumph.
Even if that person is fictional.
Image courtest of Mt. Irenaeus Franciscan retreat center, Friendship, NY