We Need to Talk About ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’

In the Philippines shootings in high schools don’t happen. What we have in our schools are mass hysteria masquerading as satanic possessions, if the guest psychologist in an episode of Jessica Soho’s show is to be believed. This phenomenon is only right because we’re super catholic and because we’d rather resort to vanilla means of fabricating school horrors. Plus, guns are not easily accessible to our kids because we are a third world,  which means that only those attending affluent schools can probably afford a gun-carrying kind of hysteria, and that might be too much to expect from the pansies that attend those schools.

We may read about such things happening but we have a way of watering down western inanities, and what a great advantage that sometimes proves to be. Should our society decide to adopt yet another western trend, and it’s only a matter of time before trick-or-treating gets a successor, school shooting might not be that far behind.

If Halloween is one of your favorite holidays, news of school possessions must be a real thrill to you and your appetite for such horror might be sated by the kind of horror that deranged, scheming, evil little shits like Kevin Khatchadourian offers. This child is so evil, Damien of ‘Omen’ will cower in fear. Damien will hold hands with Holden Caulfield while their knees shake in chorus.

Eva, the unfortunate bearer of the abominable child, narrates Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin. It is her long love letter to her estranged husband, Franklin, telling him the goings-on of her life, exquisitely describing the wasteland that has become of her existence, after their kid expertly orchestrated a homicidal spree. She writes loving letters to Franklin, documenting their glorious love story up to the abomination that is Kevin’s birth and his eventual well executed plan. As she describes how she deals with the aftermath of her son’s murdering rampage, you can’t help but feel relieved that she’s writing to her husband, and in such lovely sardonic tones, alive, sober, not insane, and getting on just fine. She is opening up to her husband completely uncaring if her dignity tears at the telling of how she really feels about motherhood.

And if you really want to know here’s Eva’s list of why motherhood isn’t all that great:

1.       Hassle
2.       Less time just the two of us (Try no time just the two of us)
3.       Other people (PTA Meetings. Ballet teachers. The kid’s insufferable friends and their insufferable parents)
4.       Turning into a cow (I was slight and preferred to stay that way. My sister-in-law had developed bulging varicose veins in her legs during pregnancy that never retreated, and the prospect of calves branched in blue tree roots mortified me more than I could say. So I didn’t say. I am vain, or once was, and one of my vanities was to feign that I was not.)
5.       Unnatural altruism: being forced to make decisions in accordance with what was best for someone else (I’m a pig.)
6.       Curtailment of my travelling. (Note curtailment. Not conclusion.)
7.       Dementing boredom. (I found small children brutally dull. I did, even at the outset, admit this to myself.)
8.       Worthless social life. (I had never had a decent conversation with a friend’s five-year-old in the room.)
9.       Social demotion. (I was a respected entrepreneur. Once I had a toddler in tow, every man I knew – every woman, too, which is depressing – would take me less seriously.)
10.   Paying the piper. (Parenthood repays a debt. But who wants to pay a debt she can escape? Apparently, the childless get away with something sneaky. Besides, what good is repaying a debt to the wrong party? Only the most warped mother could feel rewarded for her trouble by the fact that at least her daughter’s life is hideous, too.)

It’s tempting to brand Eva as an anti-hero (or a pig), the mother who just wasn’t that into motherhood. But maybe she really IS a hero. To wilfully defy what is expected of you as a woman is to demonstrate a certain kind of heroism. She’s a hero for not wanting to have a cute little family with precocious kids who will become future doctors and lawyers because look what happens when certain women give birth to kids like Kevin. Had she prevented this giving birth nonsense, 11 people would have been spared their lives. Some cervixes are just not meant to labor.

For those of the steely persuasion that every child is a gift from baby Jesus, meet Kevin, killer of people. But guard your feelings of hate on Kevin for he is a special kind of bastard. He is, as his English teacher perfectly described him, a ‘savage social satirist’. When pressed for the inevitable question of ‘why’, his answer is predictably bullshit-averse:

‘…I’m not looking for an excuse here. I don’t blame some satanic cult or pissy girlfriend or big bad bully who called me a fag. One of the things I can’t stand about this country is lack of accountability. Everything Americans do that doesn’t work out too great has to be somebody else’s fault. Me, I stand by what I done. It wasn’t anybody’s idea but mine.’

Eva’s saving grace in having Kevin is her sense of humor and self-deprecating reflex. She knows what she is the mother of but she doesn’t equate self-awareness with virtue.

In their otherwise tumultuous relationship, there is something touching about how Eva and Kevin manage to kind of agree on something. Mother and son complements each other’s take of the tragedy just wrought — Kevin wasn’t bullied, molested (well, almost), or psychologically damaged in any way; his life is actually pretty fine. And Eva is wont to dispel accusations that Kevin is just a misunderstood boy in a society so lacking in accountability, all blames are shifted to influences other than one’s own constitution. Contrary to what the media wants to conveniently believe, Kevin is not among the Misunderstood Youth, but rather among the best understood because doesn’t action speak louder than words, and after brutally and senselessly killing a number of people isn’t your worldview the most obvious, the most understood ever? Kevin’s is a classic case of It’s not them, it’s me, and I have a big, fat, fucking problem with them so maybe I’ll massacre them.

In the end you’re left feeling so sorry for Eva. What has she done to deserve this. Before motherhood set in, she lived a full life; she has a moderately successful travel guide business and is hence well-traveled and rich, and the life she shares with Franklin is as total as that of a woman saddled with four darling kids. But Kevin happens. And if Kevin is some proof, creating life is also destroying several.


3 thoughts on “We Need to Talk About ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’

  1. When I was in high school, way back in the dark ages when Ronald Reagan was serving his first term in office, I read Rage by Stephen King . It’s a dark, wonderful novella about a young teen acting out his violent urges in the classroom. I thought it was a clever, unique idea. Eerily believable, but safely outside the bounds of reality. Much later, when I’d become the mother of two young kids — one of whom was in school — we all heard the news of the killings in Columbine , and our world changed. It was the first of many such incidents which left our country scrambling for answers. How does a child become a seemingly remorseless killer? The media has rounded up the usual suspects, everything from bad parenting to an overabundance of violent video games and heavy metal music. In our eagerness to wrap our minds around something that baffles and terrifies us, we clutch at every possible explanation. Unsurprisingly, grappling with the tragedy of school shootings has become part of the zeitgeist of our time, reflected in various novels and movies. Among the most recent is Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin, adapted from the novel of the same title by Lionel Shriver.


  2. We Need to Talk About Kevin shows that sometimes, a person’s just born a certain way. Though the mother (and perhaps the father, too) is not completely without fault, nothing about her behavior should automatically lead to the conclusion that it was her fault kids like Kevin turn out the way they do. When media round up the usual suspects, they’re usually being very disingenuous.

    Rage sounds interesting. Will look for that. Thanks!


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