I recently read We Need to Talk About Kevin. If you’re unfamiliar with the text, it is written from the perspective of a mother whose always-peculiar son – the eponymous Kevin – goes into school one day and massacres a number of fellow pupils, a teacher and a canteen worker caught in the cross-fire.
So far, so ordinary. Whilst tragic in every conceivable way, and whilst highlighting wider social issues such as the taboos and stereotypes that society pretends don’t exist, explorations of high school massacres have been…well, they’ve been done, you know? I’ve seen countless documentaries and a few films on the subject (the most high-profile of which is Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine, which really worth watching if you’ve not yet done so, even if you’re of the view that Mr Moore is something of a twat), and of course there are many books, songs, and even a game (!) on the topic.
But Kevin is different. Without rehearsing the entire text, it examines Kevin’s psychology, and that of his mother Eva, from every angle you can imagine. Was Kevin born ‘bad’? Was Eva’s lack of emotional attachment to her son from day one a catalyst for an inevitably sociopathic character? Is such a character genuinely incapable of feeling normal human affects? Nature vs nurture. The way the concept of parental love has been become so innately woven into the threads of Western society that no one talks about the fact that sometimes it just doesn’t exist. The impact of all-consuming grief on those left behind. And so much more.