Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Are child murderers born or made

Post Oscar awards, I observed that some people thought Tilda Swindon was robbed of a deserved best female award for her role in ‘We need to talk about Kevin’, so I had to see the movie for myself.
I was also curious to see what they make of the home environment of teenage murderers. In the past decade there has been a spate of gruesome murders committed by kids (In recent news,  a 14 yr old Daniel Bartlam murdered his mother using a claw hammer then attempted to burn the house to cover the body and evidence??!!). Have you wondered like me what drives a child to kill despite seemingly normal home environments?

We need to talk about Kevin chronicles the childhood of a teenage ‘sociopath’ who was behind a high school massacre. It particularly looks at the relationship between the boy and his parents growing up and their lives post massacre. It is fictional and biased (we are seeing the mother's view of events) but as a good movie should, it leaves you with questions. 

What role do parents play in creating or nurturing bad behavior? The eternal nature nurture debate. I don't know anymore. I want to believe in free will of a child but I also don't want to believe that a 14 yr old  will rationally wish to kill nor do I want to blame parents who might have done their best in their own way.
In the book written by Lionel Shriver, the mother had suffered Post natal depression after Kevin's birth and some people attribute his lack of emotions to the maternal rejection he endured as a baby. Still based from the book, others blamed her poor maternal ability. Hmmm, I don't want to accept these reasons as they shift the blame for a child's behaviour on the mother. Moreover she went on to have a second child who was a 'normal' loving child.

Was Kevin badly behaved enough to be ‘suspect’? Hmm, One couldn’t really pin point. Those malevolent eyes of his made my skin crawl. Though I guess for the sake of the movie they might have encouraged that to exaggerate his ‘vileness’. The scenes from childhood where he refuses to talk, poos in his pants deliberately or wrecks his mom’s treasured maps, are not necessarily what a child does and you think ‘Woe is me, my son is going to be a murderer’. Rather, he was mostly a mean character who played his parents against each other by withdrawing or giving his affection.

Imagine being a mother and you never have those tender mom and child moments where your child wraps their arms around you in love, or just smiles and gurgles at you. This woman never had it and she tried. She really tried to bond with her son. Interestingly he was the opposite with his father. Not because he loved him more but to further punish his mom. So when the mom complains to the father about his behavior he thought she exaggerated.

Could the teachers have helped? The movie did not focus much on his school environment so we don’t know how he behaved there and if the teachers could have detected ‘abnormal behaviour’. I can understand why the movie makers might want to avoid that minefield especially in America. Teachers have enough on their hands without society giving them added responsibility of detecting/reporting disturbed children.

Other questions
Why do Fathers teach their children dangerous sports like shooting, archery, in the name of bonding?
Could a psychologist have helped?
Are some people born sociopaths?
Should teenagers who commit heinous acts serve adult sentences?
Would I blame the mother/parents of a child who turned mass murderer? I don’t think so but I wouldn’t be drinking tea with her either.
I do believe that an unhappy home environment may foster some bad behavior but unhappy is a subjective word isn’t it?

All in all the movie was a good one. A brave one in fact that raised questions about a painful subject (I doubt if parents who lost their kids to a murdering teenager would view this movie with as much generousity).
Tilda Swindon who portrayed the weary haunted mother Eva gave a topnotch performance. In the movie she is simultaneously at the centre of the violence and at its margin: she is burdened with guilt yet can make no restitution. All that is left to her is to replay, endlessly, the story of Kevin's life and ponder her own role. Was she at fault – other than in giving birth to him? Or was Kevin's just evil? John C Reilly was also perfect in his Dad role, typical Father in the background. and Kevin dear Kevin (Ezra Miller), who reminded me of David from Omen. LOL
On the minus side, I tired of the repetitive flashbacks. The red orgy (if Eva is not scrubbing off red paint, it is tomatoes. just a lot of bloody red. Yeah its connotation to blood was initially spooky but got old fast).

Does Tilde Swindon deserve an Oscar? Hmm, I have a bias for Viola Davis, just because. But Tilda’s performance was really really good too. I guess I’ll have to watch Meryl as Thatcher before I conclude :p.


  1. Never seen the movie. I'll watch out for it.

    I don't believe anyone is born a murderer sha oo.

  2. Hmmm, I also don't believe anyone is born with an innate desire to murder. ''Nurture'' I believe plays a huge role in that. How the child lived growing up and what influence the home & environment had on him/her comes to play here. Evil prevails longer in the mind...a virus that strips the mind of good until there is an black soul within. A sociopath then arises.

    Still, I need to watch the movie after the way you described it here.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Hmm...this is a tough one. I think we're all born with different genes that determine the specific amount of hormones and other chemicals running around in the body and firing the brain at different points in time. Obviously, this comes from the parents genes even though they cannot determine it. This is nature and has been decided as the culprit in some psychological imbalances.

    On the nurture part, we have to remember that upbringing is more than just the mother, or even parents. Other children and adults and their reaction and interaction with the child help to build a personality. Then there is school, media, society as a whole, etc. The child who wanted to cover the crime of killing his mother by burning the house obviously saw that from somewhere.

    God help us.

  5. I agree with Myne. It's quite a complex subject. Hope you're having a fab time this Easter.

    Adura x

  6. I believe it's a mixture of hormones and family life. But then again, what do I know? A loving family - mother, father, cousins, etc., does a lot. For one, it makes a child have healthy self esteem which in turn makes him/her sociable and better able to relate to classmates, friends, elders, etc. I don't know jare.

    P.S. Meryl as Thatcher was unimpressive, too much like her Julia and Julie (with her fake voice and accent). Viola in The Help was okay though. But just okay

    Muse Origins

  7. I hope no one is born a murder tho. I'll have to go with Myne. There are a lot of contributing factors that could be responsible and some even outa the control of the person. Just read about a 14yr old who bludgeoned his mom to death while she was sleeping and tried to burn the house down.

    May God help us

  8. Tilda is an awesome actress so even without seeing the movie I am not surprised at the shock of her not receiving an oscar

    That aside, per other topic, well I am interested in the human psyche, and their consequent behaviour. Is murder part of the nature/nurture debate? Well whilst Its a very fine line to tread, I have read that certain behavioural traits are in the genetic make up, a lack of a particular protein? or some sort of chemical imbalance that cause some people to become psycopathic and lack sympathy/empathy or indeed a feeling that they have done anything wrong. In that argument it does not matter how well nurtured they are, its well in their nature.

    Just my thoughts :)



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