Between my last update and getting back to work on my YA novella, I began to think about evil. As a general rule, genre fiction is driven by the need to overcome an antagonist. The nature of evil has been explored ad nauseam.
As a writer, I tend to lean more towards an antagonist who isn’t so much evil as he is a victim of his own background and circumstances, just as the protagonist is. The conflict occurs when their needs and desires are in direct opposition. I always want to show the audience that. Otherwise, it feels like the hero’s job is too easy. I don’t feel satisfied with an ending where they simply kill the bad guy and the show’s over. While I’m not adverse to having the good guy kill the bad guy, it can’t just be about that.
Yet truth is often stranger than fiction, and I’m compelled to believe in absolute evil even when I don’t believe in any sort of mysticism.
Let me rephrase that. I have learned not to underestimate humanity’s ability to be assholes to each other for no good reason. Enter Peter LaBarbera, known in certain circles as ‘Porno Pete’ due to his rampant obsession with gay sex. This guy has apparently made it his life’s crusade to stamp out all traces of homosexuality from our culture. Good luck.
In the interest of fairness, I know nothing about Pete other than what’s on his Twitter profile, but what he’s said so far, to the general public and to me in particular, is some of the most vile uneducated anti-gay nonsense I’ve read recently. Since it is likely that I am preaching to the choir here, I won’t waste your time pointing out that lesbian sex is safer for women than straight sex (and my previous post took care of that argument) or bore you with the Leviticus rant (which is brilliant, but everybody’s aware of it by now).
I asked, sincerely, for Pete to explain to me how me living my queer life in queer Harrisburg constitutes me oppressing him. He didn’t respond. But I want to know. I want to know what caused him to become such a hateful, bitter little man.
It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that he, like so many others before him, is really so deep in the closet he’s having adventures in Narnia. And I know from personal accounts (and experience) that growing up within a religious family can cause a great deal of self-hatred. So maybe Pete is just another victim of the cycle of hate and violence. Maybe he had the misfortune of being molested as a child. Who knows?
Yet, from Pete’s point of view, I am the evil one. That is the one thing I always keep in mind. Evil will always think they are good, because they believe their opinions are absolute truth, and that whatever they are engaging in serves a greater purpose.
Sure, some antagonists, in fact as well as fiction, are motivated by selfishness in one way or another. Perhaps they struggle with their actions and desires. Perhaps they’ve managed to put all that past them in pursuit of their goal. These minds can truly become evil, because they act with complete disregard for other beings.
Is empathy the only thing that separates good from evil? Can Porno Pete look at me and see a human being, or does he just see ‘OMG GAY GAY ICKY EEEEW!’ Does he give a rat’s ass about the journey I’ve had to undertake just to be at peace with myself? The sacrifices I’ve made in the pursuit of happiness?
Is he evil or is he just another antagonist? Will he ever feel real love for his fellow human beings, or is he forever broken? I once wrote about a man, a sorcerer, actually, who became obsessed with revenge. He lived for centuries, and had time to plot and scheme and put plans in motion. In his immortality he became wholly inhuman.
But he disappeared after centuries, leaving behind his young apprentice. I would have liked to better show how the apprentice wasn’t really evil, but had been mentored by an evil mind. His world-view was twisted, and he believed completely in the sorcerer’s cause, which amounted to little more than revenge. He did evil things. He hurt people.
In the end, the master returned to kill his apprentice in reward for his failure to accomplish their goals. But I had to believe that the apprentice could have been redeemed had he lived. Perhaps, in another version of the tale, he will be. He had no reason to be evil. His master had only one reason to be evil, revenge. But, underneath all of that, the target of his rage and hatred was also his one true love. He wronged his love and was cursed in return – unable to accept responsibility for his fate, he lay it all on the other. I believe there could have been a final reconciliation. Evil can be purged.