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Wednesday, December 01, 2021

On the Loose: Unfair Play

An eye for an eye can be sweet too

Written by Leher Kala |
Updated: January 19, 2015 12:01:02 am

When an entrepreneur with a sense of humour launched the self explanatory http://www.shipyourenemiesglitter.com, he didn’t expect to be inundated with 2,000 orders in four days. The Sydney-based Matthew Carpenter who is already considering closure said he underestimated the staggering number of misanthropes seeking innovative forms of revenge. Glitter bombing is absurdly effective: it doesn’t kill or maim, but frustrates, covering your foe in clingy, shimmery rubbish which takes forever to clean up. Predictably, five more websites with names such as http://www.glitterstrike.com have sprung in the past week.

The desire for vengeance is a powerful motivator, as old as humankind. It’s not that we’re fundamentally evil but who hasn’t fantasised about something terrible happening to someone we despise? History is replete with examples of tragic retaliation — when a Serbian patriot assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Austria responded by starting World War 1. Or more recently, the Charlie Hebdo journalists were massacred as a reaction to their controversial depictions of Prophet Muhammad. Notions of justice can be surprisingly pliant, conveniently twisted around to suit one’s level of outrage.

The time-honoured theme of revenge is going strong in literature, film and television, be it in Hamlet or characters such as Tony Soprano. No matter how implausible, there’s nothing quite so satisfying as the sadistic pleasure of watching a bloodthirsty film such as Kill Bill with Uma Thurman hacking off the limbs of a mafia gang. Similarly, the denouement is slow in coming on the very watchable Revenge, where a woman plots to ruin the lives of those who framed her father as a terrorist.

Though most of us relate to the concept of getting even, the culture subtly portrays revenge as pointless and cyclical. We’re led to believe it’s immature and wrong even though examples of it abound in our daily lives. Sure, ‘just desserts’ may not work out so well. In the words of Francis Bacon, “A man that studieth revenge, keeps his own wounds green.” But beneath these lofty suppositions, venting is cathartic and it’s only human to enjoy the pleasant side of retribution.

That’s why this awards’ season I’m rooting for Rosamund Pike for Best Actor at the Oscars who played the unforgettable sociopath Amy Dunne in Gone Girl. She will no doubt lose to other contenders who are being described in that most aggravating of terms ‘in strong roles for women’. Personally, I’ve begun to find stories of grit and determination that allegedly ‘uplift and inspire’ (and win the awards) tedious and predictable. Admirable heroes and exhilarating endings have delivered enough messages. The creepily wicked who hold a mirror to our vengeful imaginations deserve some space too.

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