Beautiful: a mental construction, a tag for an emotional/cultural response, a vague descriptor.
The Internet thinks alleged mass murderer Elliot Rodger was hot — Twitter feeds suggest that a number of women find Rodger attractive. Male tweeters don’t understand how a good-looking young man who drives a BMW and has a rich father couldn’t hook up with a woman.
George Rodger described taking a photograph as “watching from the audience a play you already know by heart.”  He brought the scripts with him. The subjects acted them out silently, walking in and out of the narrative frames he set up for them. He snapped the photographs. His audience already knew the script to view them through.
Elliot Rodger was a voyeur. He recorded videos of his neighbors and roommates. He watched the intimate moments of young couples in malls and parks, at restaurants and parties, and imagined a narrative that extended beyond the temporal frame of the moment. He ordered these scenes around a romantic script of young love that presumes a stream of happy endings beyond the closing credits. He knew this scene by heart. In a couple’s entwined arms, he recognized the romantic and sexual love that verified happiness and a positive self-worth.
Our understanding is the conclusion of a subconscious battle between what is present in a visual field and what is absent. We attach cultural preconceptions to images, paint frames around them to blend them into the world we know. Rodger reserved “beautiful” for landscapes, women, and periods of his life. He saw beauty in the rolling hills of England, sunrises and sunsets, beaches, mansions, the city of Santa Barbara, and the town of Isla Vista. He saw beauty in himself, female models, naked girls, tall blonde-haired girls, girlfriends, and the young ladies of Alpha Phi Sorority. He describes the beauty of his childhood and the beauty of his vengeful end.
Elliot Rodger was inflexible. Diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), a condition that hinders socialization, communication, and imagination, he couldn’t imagine a world not framed by the glossy images of Hollywood or his California experience. Of mixed race, dislocated from his English homeland, socially marginalized, a hybrid who lacked a hybrid sensibility, Rodger struggled to form an identity congruous with American youth culture. He was labeled: weirdo, geek, loner, Asian. He labeled himself: skater, sophisticated gentleman, Eurasian, murderer.
Selfie: a self-photographed identity representation; a means to control an expected surveillance; visual evidence of our narcissism.
Rodger affected wealth, but wasn’t wealthy, a fact he hoped to overcome by winning the lottery. With money, he could afford a lifestyle that would attract women. He took selfies in first class. We see him toasting us with a glass of champagne. We see him posing next to his BMW. We recognize his Gucci glasses. He imagined these placements and adornments would make him sexually attractive.