One day you are going to die.
If that thought has crossed your mind at one point or another, you probably were concerned about the how. What really matters is the why. What kind of message will you leave behind when you die? Better yet, what kind of message will you let someone make with your death?
Human beings: we are weird. We are conditioned to fear death since day one, as if it meant something other than our organs stopping their functions once and for all. And yet, we enjoy thinking, discussing and fantasizing about death. We love the concept of death. We crave it while doing our best to keep it as far away as possible. We want it near — but not near enough to directly affect us or the selected few close acquaintances we believe we have. Some even go the extra mile and idolize death. Be it in person or throughout the internet.
For some odd reason we feel nostalgic for the one event we will only be able to experience once we are not able to experience anything else. We relish the thrill of shutting off our life but if only for one instant. Every day we go out of our way to pursuit it, to feel closer to it. Whether it’s eating that half kilogram burger you know the coroner will blame for your untimely soullessness, or downloading weird internet browsers in order to witness graphic videos of gore you don’t want Google to add to your permanent record, we want to feel close to death. We have been exposed to its effects for so long that we want to believe we understand its inner workings when we rarely grasp the concept of dying. We want to say we are death’s best friends so we can greet it once it rings our bell and, maybe, just maybe, convince it to leave us alone for just one more day. Everyone believes they can escape death. People rarely do.
And, even more so than rubbing death’s black gown ever so slightly for a minute or two by needlessly delaying the opening of a parachute while skydiving, being able to see agony reflected on someone else’s eyes seems to make us salivate with expectancy. Since time immemorial we have been craving stories focused solely on something or someone killing as many people as possible for our entertainment. The more graphic the better. We revel in the blood spill. We like to watch it, taste it with our imagination. “Will that person die soon? If so, will I be able to see it in detail? Better yet, film it and keep it forever on an SD card?” As long as there is thin glass screen – or an imaginary fourth wall protecting us from evil – between our eyes and the actual intestines spilling all over the floor, our smiles will only grow.
We see people die every day. What we do not know is if we saw them actually die or just pretend to die. With each passing decease in our lives, it becomes harder and harder to separate reality from fiction. “Is that picture on the newspaper Photoshopped?” “Is that how real mushed brains look like?”
The overexposure has numbed us before we reach beer-buying adulthood. Real deaths end up not spurring the same joy as before. They seem fake, stale. We crave more. Not enough to kill someone ourselves, but enough to pay a group of focused group individuals to protray deads for us. There comes a time in everyone’s life when we need Hollywood to tell us how death looks like in order to feel the same rush of dopamine as before. A real bashed skull looks like child’s play. We need to see it. All of it. As gruesome and disgusting as we imagine the body’s innards to look when they have been attacked by a hammer.
Knowing someone died. That is what we are after. Especially if they lost their lives in a contrived manner that seems to reflect the victim’s sins. We enjoy feeling superior for not being the dumbass that streams their philias for the world to see. They had it coming. They probably deserved it. We would’ve known how to defend ourselves. We always do.
“That will never happen to me. I’m nothing like this druggie slut.”
“Well, if he had been checking his privilege, I would feel bad about it…”
“A teenager who has issues with authority. I hope he’s the next one to die.”
Suddenly, as you think of challenging your friends to another “bet you can’t stomach this video of an old lady being run over by a train”, one of your neighbors dies gruesomely right in front of you, out on the street. You recognize him despite never taking the time to get acquainted with him. You saw him being stalked by a shady figure tucked inside a black trench coat. You then saw him being run over by a car. And you not only didn’t even move a muscle to help, not only did you not even scream concerned about your neighbor’s fate, you stayed put. You had to be there. You had to see it. But not with your own eyes. You had to take out your phone and document this monumental event for forever’s sake. And, beside you, a group of people representing every skin tone, gender and age group conceivable by humankind, does exactly the same. You could say they are mirroring you. But that is exactly the same line they are creating inside their minds. Each one of you believes they are the person that instigated the idea of opening the camera app on the phone. And, each one of you, is wrong. You are simply following the most basic and morbid of human instincts: curiosity.
Just as a low-life newspaper photographer that makes her living relishing in the closeness of maimed bodies, who convinces herself she needs to document the cadaver’s status because “the family would love to remember him like this, on the cover of a cheap sensationalism-based tabloid, his remains topped off by pun laughing at his demise”, you post what you just saw online. And the images don’t need to speak for themselves: it is imperative you mock the now soulless human before you. He deserved it. He had a sex life and you envied that. But, more than that, he became just a collection of pixels moving at 30 fps. He stopped being human to become a handful of likes and a candid conversation on Facebook that will lead you to stay up a few hours past your bed time. They will tell you how you lost your humanity. You will respond by quoting the words “freedom of speech”, “karma” or “terrorist attack” as if they meant what you think they mean.
But what about the weirdo with the trench coat and the neon mask some people saw knifing your neighbor’s chiseled body away? Wouldn’t you want to find out the “Who?”s, the “Why?”s or the “What for?”s and have justice bring this person to their knees. No. When has justice brought any sort of engaging discourse on YouTube? On Twitter? It is but the lack of justice that keeps you and your friends glued to the tiny screens that populate your immediate radius at any given time. The only reason you might want to know who – or what – is behind the bright-blue smiley face that shines a light on the victim’s sins is to canonize that human being in the eyes of your peers. That person, whoever it may be, is the personification of death itself, of the raw justice that this PC world needs. Someone with the guts to get rid of the pestering side of the population: the different, the annoying, the sensitive, the holier-than-thou.
The killer is not a person any more. It’s an idea. And ideas fuel people. The person who you filmed taking someone else’s life transforms before your very social media hubs into a hero. A hero you created. A hero you need to reinforce in the eyes of your inner circles in order to collect the fake digital currency of fake acceptance. You, all of you, make the killer a legend; someone to look up to. Eventually, a random coins a name for the killer. It was just to more easily hashtag their deeds, but a corporation noticed. Now, they use your hero’s image to sell merchandise to you, arguably, their creator. That’s how your hero becomes “The Druid” and loses the evil aura that the words “the killer” embedded on them. The killer loses its power to become a commodity. Now it’s easier to go into a costume shop and ask for the killer’s likeness without feeling any sort of social shame. In fact, if you want to remain socially accepted, you ought to. You have to buy the mask. Batteries not included.
Eventually, after a year idolizing The Druid, after a year of getting together with your best mates and film yourselves doing Druid-related pranks for your YouTube channel, a revelation. You find out who is behind the mask. And it makes sense. But it is underwhelming. It is so underwhelming. You are not satisfied with the result. All the clues where there, you just needed to ink the dots together. But you were too busy following the outlandish theories cooked by the hive minds on the online forums you frequent that, when the truth comes out, you can simply muster an “oh. ok. so it was that person all along.” You even hear yourself saying “lame” out loud.
The killer, your idol, your hero, is a person. Nothing more and nothing less. Your hero has just lost its charm.
You are so far removed from your humanity at this point that the reasons behind their actions of The Druid’s secret identity do not resonate inside your heart. The killer is a complex person, trapped between good and evil, the lines between the two erased by a deranged mind that wants to rationalize killing people by attaching a sense of justice to the bloodshed. Revenge is the motive. It always is. But being able to have the emotions needed to understand revenge humanizes your hero. That nerfs the killer in your eyes. They are no longer an idea. They are no longer the wrath that fills your mind and makes your darkest desires come true. They are, once again, a human being. A human being with its own dark desires, desires that are not parallel to yours; not in the slightest. The killer is, then, an individual And that bores you to tears. You even blame them for not being emotionally stable enough to be vengeful. Vengefulness is for morons, you say, despite feeling the need to follow on the killer’s footsteps and clamor for one more death.
The revelation is anticlimactic without being anticlimactic. You have, finally, lost your humanity. And, of course, it’s not your fault. It’s everyone else’s fault you turned out like this. You were simply following trends. You were simply trying to fit in in this sick, sad world.
Now you understand how much The Druid’s victims suffered. Not because they lost their lives. Not because their loved ones outlived them with nothing but a dark void of sadness and fear in their hearts. But because they transformed into a statistic. A statistic that will be thrown willy-nilly on Twitter. A statistic that will end up numbing people to tragedies all over the web; numbing them until they reach the same uncaredness you achieved back in high school.
The dead ones will become statistic that will, in no time, lose its power to garner online traffic.
And then, the search for a new hero will begin.
And this time, it might be you who takes up the mantle.
Or it might be me.
Depending on how many likes I get tonight.
You can stream this entire season on Netflix right now since it’s, you know, a Netflix Original Series and all.
How did we rate Slasher: Solstice? 5 Sodas
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