Evil as entertainment
It has almost been half a year since I have read anything literary. I realized that in this quasi-break of ours (after all, there are no classes and exams) I needed to catch up on my literature, even if by a little. I actually had a title in mind, and it was Solomon Grunsky Was Here by Mordecai Richler. It just popped out of my mind one morning while I was sauntering around, and that was also the morning where I visited a second-hand bookstore with a cheap but well-tended copy of the novel. Despite the length, I bought the book and started reading it a week ago.
As could be expected from books with such length, it was an epic story of a family’s rise and fall into fame. To me, it gave off vibes of both One Hundred Years of Solitude and Absalom, Absalom!. It was akin to the former for its revelry in dark humor, violence, and the macabre as well as its chronicle of an empire born from evil and vituperation; it was akin to the latter for its puzzle-like nature: it isn’t until the final pages where the pieces finally come together, and one sees the unity of the vignettes that pepper the novel.
It was not a tale of redemption; on the contrary, it was a tale of wickedness, deceit, and anger. In that regard it is similar to Faulkner’s darkest stories. Yet it was an eminently readable book, because in addition to the novel being without the staggered explosion of meaning triggered from Faulkner’s serpentine statements, it reflected, even in the baseness of it all, humanity.
My thesis is that the most well-constructed manifestations of evil, even in their perfidy, serves for very good entertainment. I believe that it was not Batman, but the Joker (excellently acted by the late Heath Ledger), that catapulted The Dark Knight into such an esteemed status among film-viewers.
A particularly memorable line from the film that reflects this idea of mine is when Joker says to Batman, ‘you complete me.’ The good is only good because it has an evil to counteract: it cannot be defined solely by itself, but rather vis-a-vis against the evil it is against. Among the greatest anime of all time is Cowboy Bebop, and it is defined to be among the greatest because of its villains as well as its heroes. Vicious and Vincent Volaju remain to be among the most popular villains in anime, and not only because of Spike Spiegel, but because of their personalities. I believe it is the reason why a significant number of well-written books, well-made anime, and the best films revolve around this wickedness.