A Social Media Biography of a Spree Killer, Part 2

Read Part 1 Here.

Elliot Rodger’s Beautiful World

Elliot Rodger uses the word beautiful 128 times in his 107,000-word essay, five-times more than the average occurrence of beautiful in movies or fiction.

Rodger had problems. We see them now. We watch his anger as he robotically explains why he hates women. We see his marginalization. We can identify with his desire to belong. He didn’t know how to fit in and be himself. We recognize a cultural landscape preoccupied with wealth, notoriety, and sex. We recognize his social awkwardness.

He liked sunrises and sunsets. In the days before his murder spree, he woke up early to watch the sun rise over the California landscape. Sunrises suggested new possibilities. They were marked with hope. Sunsets became a symbol for romantic love, the beautiful orange glow corrupted by the presence of couples.

Rodger saw the world as if through a camera, blending the visual perspectives of the director and the voyeur to create meaning from social spaces. Referring to two friends, he says, “I would start to see them at the same time.” The awkward sentence blends  “see” as visualize with “see” as meet, forcing the reader to picture the two boys as if from the filmmaker’s perspective, side-by-side. The language implies a distant, observational perspective that aligns with Rodger’s social anxiety. Instead of “meeting” or “getting together with” friends, Rodger “sees” them, as he would a movie, a visual friendship with the boys on the other side of his camera, unable to cross the boundaries of his awkwardness to enter into an engaged and intimate friendship.

One time, as I was shopping at the Calvin Klein store in Camarillo, I saw such a sexy-looking blonde girl with perfectly tanned skin. She looked so beautiful and sexy that I had an erection instantly.[1]

Seduced by Hollywood blockbusters where male protagonists get the girl by the pure force of their personality, Rodger believed that if a woman was sexually attracted to him, she would approach him. In high school, Rodger didn’t have this James Bond-like effect on young women, but he hoped his post-high school identity as a sophisticated cosmopolitan gentleman would change his fortunes.

And then I saw her hunk of a boyfriend. My entire being was filled with anguish and despair. I could only imagine how amazing and pleasurable that guy’s life was… I thought with desperate hope that when I’m that man’s age I would be worthy enough to have such a girlfriend by my side.[2]

Visuality is our understanding of what we see. The narratives we cull from the visual world. The order we give to the onslaught of visual stimuli. The movie we create to order events across time and space. Rodger saw a narrative of male success in the vision of the couple at the Calvin Klein store. He saw blonde-haired, white girls as a prize that would mark his social ascendancy, projecting himself into a Hollywood narrative in which the marginalized overcome some social or physical shortcoming, prove their detractors wrong, and get the girl in the end.

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