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Summer Guide: A Modern Day Horror Story

By Bethel Habte / Columnist

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Elliot Rodger’s autobiographical manifesto, “My Twisted World: The Story of Elliot Rodger,” is the modern-day “Frankenstein”. In a dramatic 137 pages, Rodger depicts a sad, confused “monster” unleashed into a culture and society that condemned him. 

Readers feel sorry for Frankenstein’s monster but will have a hard time extending pity to Rodger, who allegedly killed six people and injured 13 others before committing suicide on May 23 in Isla Vista, Calif. 

Many will see Rodger, instead, as a sex-depraved lunatic, as his manifesto details his thought process leading up to the shooting. Sex-depraved he may have been, but he shouldn’t be blamed solely for his obsession. Today’s culture is growing increasingly liberal with sex and it’s rapidly becoming correlated with status. We talk about it, we write about it and we film it, but its strong presence in society doesn’t always make it easier to accept as a cultural norm — especially when it is not also accompanied by proper education on the subject.

It is especially difficult for someone like Rodger, who faced crippling social anxiety.

For people like Rodger, interacting socially is more than difficult — it’s painful. Every glance and interaction is dissected for signs of judgment, dislike and amusement. With the anxiety comes a fear of the interaction itself. 

According to his manifesto, Rodger coped by obsessively focusing on his appearance. He meticulously followed and became an expert on every passing trend in an effort to appear “cool.” But what happens when being “cool” stops being determined by an ability to ride a skateboard, play cards and dress well? What do you do when being “cool” becomes determined by social interactions?

In today’s age, social interactions are quickly jumping to sexual interactions. 

Rodger wrote, “The ‘cool’ thing to do now was to be popular with girls. I didn’t know how to go about doing that. I didn’t even understand what was so special about it, either, but everyone seemed to place so much importance on it.”

Rodger continued to cope the only way he knew: by attempting to become an expert on attraction and modeling himself after desirable men. His life developed accordingly. He tried working out, he grew obsessed with wealth, he dressed nicely — but it was never enough. 

Inspired by a movie, he moved to Santa Barbara as a last measure.

“It was all because I watched that movie ‘Alpha Dog.’ The movie had a profound effect on me, because it depicted lots of good-looking young people enjoying pleasurable sex lives,” Rodger wrote. 

After his move, Rodger waited for the women to flock to him.

“I walked over to the center of Isla Vista every day and sat at one of the tables outside Domino’s Pizza, hoping against hope that a girl would come up and talk to me. Why wouldn’t they? I looked good enough, didn’t I?” he wrote. 

In the game of sexual attraction, Rodger was already at a disadvantage because of his social anxiety. He couldn’t approach women, so he did everything he could to force them to approach him. But sex, love and relationships are hardly that smooth and effortless outside of the media.

In an email conversation with a family friend in which Rodger’s lack of effort was pointed out, he replied, “I have to blame someone for my troubles and I don’t blame myself.” 

In his eyes, he did everything right. He dressed well, he drove a nice car, he put himself in a socially active city, yet women didn’t fawn over him. There wasn’t anything wrong with him, so according to Rodger’s logic, something must be wrong with the women who ignored him — an injustice he couldn’t accept. 

It’s not hard to see why Rodger saw it as an injustice. His social anxiety and mental illness hindered his ability to interact with women, regardless of his actions. Without the ability to recognize his faults, Rodger succumbed to his violent tendencies. 

Rodger’s “Day of Retribution” is not only tragic — it’s a learning opportunity. We are growing up in a culture that not only prioritizes sex, but also glorifies it. It is important to teach both men and women that the sex portrayed in popular culture is exaggerated — not examples of everyday life. 

Because to someone like Elliot Rodger, these examples are the only source of reality. 

Write Bethel at beh56@pitt.edu.

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Summer Guide: A Modern Day Horror Story