Thursday, August 18, 2011

Do Vampire Books and Movies Inspire People to be Psycho Killers?

I've  been reading some of the items about the "vampire" attack in Texas.  The perpetrator, nineteen-year-old Lyle Monroe Bensley, is currently awaiting psychiatric evaluation in jail on burglary charges in Galveston, Texas for breaking into a woman's home and trying to "suck her blood.".   From time to time, there have been "vampire attacks" in other places.  I always find it interesting that when one mentally unstable or drug-induced individual acts out in this way, there is always a rush to pin the blame somewhere.  Whether it's reading The Catcher in the Rye or doing away with prayer in school, something has to be "responsible" for the behavoir. 

Could it be that this kind of act is just is a symptom of someone who has deep emotional problems, rather than the influence of entertainment featuring a creature that most of us understand to be mythical?  I really have to laugh when spokespeople in the media point to "Twilight".  If this pop culture phenom has a negative influence it's perhaps just the plethora of pre-teen girls wearing shirts that say, "I Love Boys that Sparkle".  As someone who has loved vampire stories since I was a small child, I can't honestly say that watching Dark Shadows made me want to go our and suck people's blood.  Okay, I'll admit to tying a towel around my neck and donning plastic fangs to scare my little brother.

There's a book called The Sorrows of Young Werther written by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe and first published in 1774.  In it, the hero commits suicide over an unrequited love.  The novel inspired a rash of young men to run around Europe dressing and acting like Werther, the hero.  There were even some "Werther" suicides.  Did these young men commit suicide because of the novel or because they suffered from an undiagnosed mental illness?  The sciences of psychology and psychiatry didn't exist in Goethe's time, so we'll probably never know.  I think we can all agree that people who act in an extreme fashion are having serious issues of some kind.

So let's go on enjoying our monsters in books and movies, where they are safe.  We should try to help identify mental illness in our children and help them before they do harmful things.  There are real monsters out there who exploit and harm people.  God knows, we've dealt a lot with monstrous human beings throughout the ages.

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