This weekend I watched the movie Maleficent. I have to say that while my kids liked it, I thought it was okay at best. For me, it was just kind of ordinary and the characters were a little flat.
I wouldn’t even be talking about the movie if not for the similarities I saw between the main character, Maleficent, and school attackers.
Or more precisely, how their society and ours view the justification to do evil.
I’ll try not to give away too much for those who haven’t seen the movie, but Maleficent places a curse on the king’s baby girl which can only be broken by true love’s kiss. This element is faithful to the original tale, Sleeping Beauty. What happens before and after the curse is completely new or at least a different take on the classic story. In the beginning of this new story, Maleficent was a sweet, innocent fairy who loved all and was loved by all. She is the most kind and caring fairy you could ever meet until she is treated horribly and then she has no choice but to turn into something that she didn’t want to be.
And this is where the similarities between our two societies (one magical and one real) collide.
In the movie, it’s crystal clear that Maleficent didn’t want to be a meanie. They drove her to do it and the story line is crafted to make you feel sorry for the bad guy (girl). Clearly, she’s the victim and therefore her evil behavior is in some way justified because of what ‘they’ did to her. If they just would have treated her better she wouldn’t have had to do it.
The same kind of thing is happening with school attackers.
“He was bullied…”
“He snapped, but what do you expect after they…”
“Nobody cared about him and that’s why…”
“It’s because of the gun lobby and easy access to guns…”
“It’s violent video games…”
Like in Maleficent, it’s dangerous to blame some external cause, even if it is terribly unfair, as a plausible explanation for one person to hurt another. There can never be a plausible explanation to attack a school just as there was no plausible explanation why Maleficent would curse an innocent baby to death for something her father did, even though she suffered terribly.
Yes, outside influences and events may contribute to doing violence but deciding to do violence is an individual choice. Maleficent was not ‘made’ evil because of what they had done to her, but by her desire and action to hurt others.
And the same goes for school attackers.
In 1927, Andrew Kehoe murdered his wife, blew up the school, turned his vehicle into a suicide bomb, and murdered 44 teachers and students and injured 58. He left a note on his fence which read, “Criminals are not born, we are made.”
No one is made to do evil.