She’s kind of a dissatisfying villian, isn’t she?
After writing her for a few books, I still battle with a slight sense of aggravation as to how she turned out. She is a woman whose story never got fully told. She has a life that has never been fully lived. She has a personality that she never fully expresses. She has relationships that are never fully explored.
Sometimes I think I did her wrong, as a writer. But when I think about what inspired my villianness to become who she is, I know I did her just right.
Lady Villianness, not to be named so as not to spoil anything for anyone who has not yet read Colorworld, came into her own after I read My Favorite Teacher by Robert Kurson for one of my creative writing classes. It’s a literary journalism piece, and should you venture to read it, beware that it is incredibly graphic and deeply disturbing.
I’ll break it down for you in a few words. It’s told by the former student of a teacher who ended up raping and killing two teenaged boys (classmates of the writer) for simple curiosity of what it was like. The interesting twist to the story, well, one of them anyway, was that this teacher was loved by all. He was a pleasant man but with no solid or apparent deep relationships with anyone, with a sparse and only slightly unsettling childhood, a mild manner, zero temper, and no history of antisocial behavior prior to his heinous act.
The author weaves in a meticulous cataloguing of the teacher’s acts on that fateful night along with telling his own personal story of how this particular teacher influenced his life. It’s a compelling interwoven contrast of hard-boiled journalistic description and emotional turmoil and confusion.
At the end, you wipe your brow, take a deep breath, and wonder what the bleep you just read.
It’s like that. Unsatisfying. You think to yourself, “There must be more!” You WANT there to be more so you can properly hate this man. You NEED more so you can properly sleep at night without worrying that your perfectly sane-looking neighbors with 2.5 kids and a dog will murder you in your sleep. Because all of a sudden, you have no idea what makes evil.
Does 1+ 4 = evil?
1/4+3/7+78^6 = evil?
You need to know so as not to become it. So your kids don’t become it. So you can spot it before it reaches you.
And so you can decide that teacher’s fate with the full knowledge of what made him choose what he did. It would be so much easier to feel right about him if he’d just have been a little more evil outside of that singular time period of utter wickedness. It’d be nice, wouldn’t it, if all evil looked at least a little like this so as to be recognizable:
But this doesn’t exist with Kurson’s favorite teacher. You don’t know anything anymore and you’re exhausted with trying to wrap your head around what to believe about him.
Lady Villianness has a story, an “explanation” for her evil–if such things can really be explained satisfactorially. Everyone has a story. But I’ve come to believe the pictures we’re given about evil via TV and other media are usually too compartmentalized than what actually exists in reality, that “evil” in reality is far more complex, far more unsatisfying. Usually people we deem “evil” have personalities not fully realized, stories not fully told, relationships that never quite connect. They never quite fit into the world we’ve created to live out our merry black and white little lives in.
I did Lady Villianness right. And because of it, her story, her life, is far sadder because it is an existence never fully realized. She could have but didn’t. She would have been, but wasn’t. She might have been someone we could love. But engaging herself in her own existence–in the existence of others–has eluded her for far too long.
As for evil, it’s an elusive thing. An unarticulated thing. An abstract nothing that gets affixed to acts and people as if it can be separated out like oil and water. But such ideas are manufactured, a farcical security that an oversimplified world creates.
As the Colorworld Series progresses, Wendy learns this, too. And she’ll wish for the days when evil was as simple as Lady Villianness.