Baby P was sadistically abused, tortured, and killed by his relatives. I read this story as a child in the paper and was horrified. It was an early taste of the pure evil that runs in this world, and the horrors that humans are capable of inflicting upon each other.
That’s not the most cheerful introduction to my work, or indeed to me. But I like to get straight to the point.
From an early age, I experienced immense rage at cruel injustice that plagues our world. When I was seven, I watched Titanic, and one scene made me weep. It wasn’t the scene where Jack died. It wasn’t the scene where the other passengers died. It wasn’t even when Rose spoke solemnly of how Jack had saved her.
No, the scene that pulled my prepubescent heartstrings was when Cal and Lovejoy set up Jack to make it look like he had stolen the ‘heart of the ocean’ necklace. Jack was chained to a pole at the bottom of the ship. Later, Rose rescued him.
Seeing Jack unjustly accused of something he hadn’t done, and being a prisoner in such a nasty way, made tears fall from my eyes. The cruelty of it all; the unfairness, and the possibility that he would drown, all for a crime he hadn’t committed, made me unbelievably sad.
As I’ve grown up, I’ve witnessed many distressing things in film and TV shows. Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, and Dexter are all fantastic shows. And they have all yanked at my heartstrings, shocked my pulse rate, and let screams tumble from my larynx.
Why do I enjoy this? Why do I love to consume such vile, terrible scenes in the media I watch?
I think a lot of it comes from the sheer, heavy accompanying emotion. It shows us what humanity is capable of, but also the good that comes out of it. When I saw Jack in that position, I wept. But it made the ‘payoff’ of Rose coming to rescue him, even more triumphant. The cruel injustice followed by the heroic display of compassion and empathy flooded my heart with relief.
It’s like when a serial killer or rapist is caught and sentenced to jail. The crimes they commit are appalling. But knowing they will spend the rest of their lives rotting in a prison cell because of the brave men and women that put them there is comforting. It is a big relief to know that for every evil person out there, there are two or three good ones ready to put things right.
The worst kind of evil, for me, is committed in the name of good. My favourite Disney film is The Hunchback of Notre Dame. (Unsurprisingly, one of Disney’s darkest.) The villain in that movie is one of Disney’s most petrifying figures. He is also certain of his righteousness.
There are people in this world that use their beliefs as a weapon to instil fear into others. What these people believe doesn’t really matter, because they all think the same. That their cruelty is justified, their means are necessary, they are correct, and somehow more important than other people. In my young-adult novel Anne, the antagonist is Anne’s abusive father who beats her mother and uses his extreme religious beliefs to justify his cruel behaviour. He condemns his unfaithful wife as a ‘fornicating slut.’
Egotism is a big fuel for cruelty. Psychopaths possess high degrees of narcissism and grandiose. When researching my novella Psycho Girl (the second novella in my duo-storybook Every Last Psycho), I watched movies like The Silence of the Lambs, Psycho, The Hand that Rocked the Cradle, and The Bad Seed. The same traits came up. Eerie calmness. Cool self-assurance. Determination and skillful intelligence.
A psychopath is a master manipulator. Someone who knows how to twist the emotions of empaths and regular people. Not all evil is committed by psychopaths, which is weirdly more chilling. At least psychopaths can blame their atypical brain patterns. What sort of horror causes a perfectly ordinary person to colonise an entire society of people? Or molest children, or murder their family?
Ultimately, I can’t go out and stop all the evil that is in this world. But I can cast some light by bringing these people to the forefront. If I write characters who are cruel, nasty, self-absorbed and vicious, I can juxtapose them with characters who are good-hearted, selfless, compassionate and kind. In my novel Around Midnight I contrast the kind-hearted protagonist Megan with the manipulative ‘bad boy’ Vince. He sucks Megan into his calculating clutches. But her light prevails.
Balance is the key to everything. The universe has a balance of light and darkness. If we understand and stay aware of the darkness, we can combat it. Then we can help stream in more light through the blinds.
To see Zarina’s previous interview on MTA, go here …
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My books: https://zarinamacha.co.uk/books
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