The avatar of evil

The shaved character in the movies is almost never happy. Nobody tapping the primal forces he’s tapping could ever be happy. But being angry is too clichéd to be accepted. Hence Loughner’s bent smile, which recycles Jack Nicholson’s psycho grin from The Shining and any number of Bruce Dern and Jack Palance grimaces. Loughner won’t be content until people understand that he’s a sadistic bastard capable of greater transgressions than shooting innocent people at point-blank range and that killing a 9-year-old only hints at the monster inside him.

Loughner has consciously sculpted himself into a modern computer-game avatar in his photo. By this evening we’ll have seen the shot so many times that its silhouette will be etched into our brains, and a glance of it will be enough to remind us of where we were when we first heard about the Giffords shooting, what we felt, and how we reacted to the debates about politics, violence, and media that immediately followed. It ranks with the mug shots of Charles Manson, Lee Harvey Oswald, James Earl Ray, and Timothy McVeigh. Somewhere, musicians are appropriating his name for their punk band, others are printing T-shirts, somebody is writing an instant-book about him, and somebody has made it their Twitter icon…

Given his beliefs, I suspect that Loughner is less interested in learning more about his own motives (Politics? Metaphysics? Madness?) than he is in inserting his image into our dream pools where it can fester. You can’t be much of a nightmare if you’re dead.

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