Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Serial Killer. No questions asked.

From Wikipedia:
A serial killer is a person who murders three or more people over a period of more than thirty days, with a "cooling off" period between each murder, and whose motivation for killing is largely based on psychological gratification. Often, a sexual element is involved with the killings. The murders may have been attempted or completed in a similar fashion and the victims may have had something in common; for example, occupation, race, appearance, sex, or age group.
Serial killers are not the same as mass murderers, who commit multiple murders at one time; nor are they spree killers, who commit murders in two or more locations with virtually no break in between. 

Recently the poll on this page has taken a giant step forward in sanity, when the most popular identification of Frank Castle switched from 'misunderstood' to 'serial killer.' Thank Heaven! I was seriously thinking of tracking down all of the voters and putting you on somebody's psyche profile watch list. What kind of person looks at the hundreds (if not thousands) of people that Frank Castle has systematically hunter down and killed over the course of his life and describes him as 'misunderstood?'

No. I understand him just fine.

He's a sociopath, who hid his aberrant behavior behind (depending on which version you subscribe to) a position in the military or law enforcement, until a personal tragedy allowed him to justify embracing his sociopathic tendencies, while hiding behind the justification of avenging his beloved family.

As I told somebody during our discussion on this topic.....lots of heroes have killed.

Wonder Woman killed Maxwel Lord (and I was glad she did!)

Captain America killed.

Hell, even Superman has killed.

But there's a big difference between killing somebody, and being a killer.

Frank Castle is a stone cold killer, who does not feel a single ounce of remorse for the murders he has committed, nor any moral uncertainty over his constant denial of the rights which his victims are guaranteed under the laws of his country. He is no more a hero than any other serial killer throughout history, despite the fact that many people empathize with or appreciate that his actions continue to remove criminals from the streets.

Justification is easy, until you have to make it real.

If killing my best friend would save a hundred people I'll never know, I think those hundred people would die. That's part of what makes me human. Would it be heroic of me to kill my best friend?  Hell no.  It would border on an act of evil, despite the potential good it would result in.  Heroism would be him finding out that by dying he could save 100 people, and taking his own life.  That would be heroic, although maybe even that could be turned around.

My point that while we enjoy the stories and are engrossed in the enormously decadent violence that makes a Punisher story work....we should never lose sight of the fact that we're glorifying a serial killer. We may be happy that he killed an 'allegedly' bad, bad man.......but there is no way we can consider ourselves civilized and absolve him of his repeated acts of murder.

Frank Castle: Murderer.

Now, I really only read Ennis' Punisher, but how good a book would it be if we found out that he killed an innocent? You can't take it back. There's no 'fix' button for capital punishment, and you only have to be wrong one time. 100 rights will never wash that stain off of your soul.

I'd love to tackle that question.

Until somebody does though, never forget........if somebody admires the Punisher.....stay far.....FAR....away!


Rude39 said...

I agree with you on this topic, but I'd like to offer another aspect for the sake of debate: The world that The Punisher lives in is one of high-takes, of extremes, of no-holds barred brutality and depravity. While some of Batman's villains(like The Joker), can certainly compete, would you say that the kinds of rogues Frank regularly deals with are of a decidedly different breed than most heroes? If this is indeed the case, do normal solutions really apply to his brand of crime? Batman locks up supervillains and thugs, but the kind of mafioso types Punisher deals with are the kinds of men and women who OWN the police, the judges, and have routinely threatened jurors into "Not Guilty" pleas. If the criminal element is such that it makes the justice system null and void, what solution do you go with?

The 4th Man said...

I'm not sure I buy that argument.

The criminal element you're referring to is, for lack of a better explanation, far less intimidating than The Joker (for example) or Lex Luthor (actually Luthor may be even scarier!) Sure they can buy a judge, or grease a palm, but can't The Joker have a henchman kidnap somebody's daughter or Luthor buy a whole freakin' city?

If the rationalization you used were valid, we would not, as a society, require our law enforcement to adhere to a code of conduct regarding the treatment of prisoners.

Additionally, we can introduce into this debate the question of whether or not The Punisher ever even meets the burden of proof prior to assigning guilt and rendering judgment. Some authors lead us to believe that he does, but on what basis do we assume that everyone he's killed has been guilty of a capital offense?

And what about the states in which a there are no capital offenses? What authority is given to Frank Castle to supersede the will of the majority?

But, getting back to the essence of your argument.....I think we would all look at Castle's victims as mundane criminals. Much less threatening, dangerous or resourceful than Batman or Iron Man's.

You would have a hard time convincing me that those are the people for whom violent sanctions are the most reasonable.

Now Joker?

Somebody should ice him.

Rude39 said...

Fair enough, but I would say that Barracuda, especially if he had lasted longer, could be considered in the running.

Otherwise, you have a point.

Unknown said...

You can't call him completely psychotic because (with exception to a few story lines over the years) he's fully aware of what he's doing.

Serial Killer is rough because he doesn't always target individuals, doesn't 'get off' by killing, nor 'cool off' afterwards. Plus, I'd hardly call '(general) criminal' an occupation. His targets do vary quite a bit, numerically and otherwise.

Mass murder works.

Depending on the writer, it's difficult to say that the 'prey' he hunts by his own accord. There's usually a point in the storyline where you(the reader) realize that if the druggie, rapist, mobster would just drop what he's doing and back away from the situation or simply do nothing, they'd be fine. But instead, out of fear or anger, they constantly trust their power or guns, or whatever they threaten people with, and trust THAT to help them take Frank Castle down and reclaim the security and comfort they had.

When Frank Castle guns down a dozen mobsters in a chokepoint from a secure location, it seems like mass murder of helpless victims. But when the thugs walked into the chokepoint waving guns of their own shouting about how they're going to kill Frank Castle for stealing their score...well, it's not justified self defense by any means is it...But that's where people want to make excuses for him.

Frank Castle is a severe disbeliever in the human condition and anyone's potential for redemption. But he lets his prey, at least partially, bury themselves. There's been times where Frank doesn't kill his target because he WAS innocent and didn't respond the way Frank'd thought, thwarting the trap. That's how he judges people...their actions. But yes, he is definitely a sociopath. Strung up on a mega case of PTSD. With some on/off psychosis wrapped up in there.

Few writers give you the impression that you're supposed to cheer for Frank Castle.