These are difficult times we live in. I see it in my children. I see it in my friends. I see it by the lack of stability in relationships, careers, housing, investments, and even the weather patterns.
Yes, there has always been flux and evolution and survival of the fittest and such. But what monstrous times we live in.
We can look back at history at other monstrous times: WWII, The Spanish Inquisition, Romans, Biblical events.
There are have always been despicable people performing alarming acts on others. These stories, these realities, these historical facts, should be teaching the human race to evolve.
But we don't.
Villains in Fiction
It's fun to watch villains in fiction. We love the Joker, Kylo Ren, Darth Vader, Snidely Whiplash, Dandy Mott, Alex, Dracula, The Wicked Witch of the West, Cruella deVille, and so on. We love to watch them do evil stuff and either find redemption or pay the price by the end of their story. Fiction is fun. Without evil, there would be no good. How would we know who the hero is since there wouldn't be one? Stories would suck.
In real life, it's not so fun to dance with a psychopath/narcissist/sociopath. And they are getting harder to avoid as they are Academy Award winning actors and actresses roaming around our every day world. And there is often no redemption or happy endings in any story they star in, which is all of them.
The barrage of TV shows about these dysfunctional people indicates we are hungry to hear these stories. We marvel from the outside at the clues we're fed by the writers. How are people so easily conned? Why don't they leave if they think they are abused? How could she not know her husband is a serial killer?
As a horror writer, I'm interested in real life horror and keep the TV on a lot for company. I watch American Greed, Dateline, 20/20, all those OWN shows about con artists, serial killers, cheaters and though it gets depressing, it's also interesting to see rich, famous, intelligent people get just as conned as Joe Everyone who lives next door.
The human condition is a strange and complicated one. Yet in many ways, very easy to contemplate as well. We all want to survive. Some people think surviving is manipulating others to get what they want, no matter the price. Others believe that helping others is the way for everyone to just get along and all get what we want in the end. Most of us fall somewhere in-between, living our lives, doing our best, hoping for the best, and getting by and assuming everyone else is doing the same.
But some people aren't. They will stop at nothing to lie and cheat their way to ...what? "The Top" whatever that means to them. To some, it's to be President of Something, a judge, a doctor, a movie star, and others it's to own their own business or have a car or own their own home. Goals may vary but the lies and deceit don't. People who lie and cheat to get what they want will do it in every level of their life. It can seem exhausting when watching it in action, but that's just how some people are. And those types of people aren't very good for most other people. They know how to push buttons, how to seduce and manipulate, whether it's a conscious act or just a natural gift/curse. It behooves us to learn to recognize their games early on.
These people make great villains in fiction like in the hits Wolf of Wall Street and Catch Me If You Can but the people who lived through those crimes would likely have a different version of the story.
No one wants to live through that kind of drama and trauma. But people do every day on different levels. And no one talks about it. This is why it's hard to get untangled from the spider web once it's recognized. Then when people do finally break free, it's rare they are applauded for their efforts.
No, the target is often considered stupid, selfish, weak, insane, abusive, if he or she dares to leave or even more so, to speak out at all about any of the abuse.
Domestic abuse is so insidious that to relay one or two incidents often sounds ridiculous. The listener has to bear in mind all the rest of the set dressing of the event. Get into that D-box chair and put on the 3D glasses. Think about tone, facial expressions, body language, seduction, setting, family repercussions, financial repercussions...it's never so very simple as, "Oh, he slapped you? Why didn't you just up and leave?" or "Just kick him out."
No, it's not easy to decipher the truth and perception and perspective and experience. But if a person feels fearful of another, that is never good. And to feel fearful enough to try to please him or her? That's co-dependency and a thing of its own which also needs to be recognized and talked about.
The Trial of Jian Ghomeshi
The trial of Jian Ghomeshi is happening right now. Already witnesses are being raked through the coals about what appears to be contradictory acts on the part of the alleged victim. This is an opportunity for people to be educated about the dangerous manipulations of seduction, abuse, hypnosis, gaslighting, and more. This is the chance for people to learn that yes, you can be smacked around and horrified by it, yet still want to please your abuser because you feel like YOU did something wrong for this ugliness to happen and you will tie yourself into knots trying to understand it, to fix it, to avoid it happening again. However, it can take a lifetime and some people never figure out that it wasn't their fault, that they had been gaslighted/abused/lied to/manipulated and kept on a string.
Until such behaviour is experienced in one's own life, such situations can look like ridiculous, ludicrous behaviour. People who haven't been through a mind-fuck don't understand how a perfectly intelligent, sane person can be driven to madness by loving or trying to please someone who turns out to be abusive.
People don't go into an abusive relationship knowing its abusive. They are seduced by magnificent behaviour, gifts, romance, hot sex, and so on and only very slowly does it all erode into a nightmare. So slowly that it's barely perceptible. And that's why it's difficult to see from the inside, as the seduced target, that something is horribly wrong even if people on the outside can see it plain as day. There's no specific place to pinpoint what happened and often the target will blame her or himself for somehow making things fall apart. And so he or she will try to please the abuser more, who of course, is getting away with bad behaviour and so it all escalates.
Get Educated About Toxic Relationships
At any rate, there are hundreds of websites, groups, and books these days geared towards toxic relationships. If your relationship suddenly seems to have taken a left turn at Albuquerque, get educated about domestic abuse, narcissistic personality disorder, and learn how to set your own personal boundaries. Keep in mind that material possessions mean nothing if you or your children are dead whether from mind games, health issues, or physical violence.
Print version of (Stop) Dancing in the Gaslight
The trial of Jian Ghomeshi will bring abusive behaviour out into the light. Hopefully the proceedings will open up some dialogue about abusive relationships.
In the meantime, let's keep the villains in fiction. Real life ones suck.