U.S. politicians are throwing temper-fits because of a federal “shutdown,” wanting to make people go without the NASA.gov website and World War II memorial access, and Disney is making films about its animated villains such as Maleficent and now also Cruella de Vil.
If you haven’t read at least the first two volumes of Lewis’s Ransom Trilogy (often termed the “Space Trilogy”), Perelandra follows the Godly and scholarly Dr. Elwin Ransom to the planet Perelandra (Venus). There on this watery world, Ransom encounters Venus herself, an innocent emerald Eve-like woman in a domain uncorrupted by sin — just before that corruption arrives in the form of scientist Dr. Weston.
One of the villains of the trilogy’s previous novel, Weston now shuns his former classic humanism in favor of a cosmic variety. No longer does he worship “man” (really an ideal of man in his mind); instead he gives himself over to a “life force.” Slowly Ransom concludes that this is a devil, or perhaps the Devil himself, and thus begins a grueling spiritual battle.
Or rather, the battle starts out spiritual. As this Satanic enemy wearies of engaging Ransom in debate over the green lady’s soul, he attempts startling psychological warfare. Readers to this day may be haunted by one of these ploys in the night, when Weston — hereinafter referred to as “the Un-Man” by a philosophizing Random/narrator — calls out through the dark, “Ransom.” When Ransom answers, he only says, “Nothing.” Each time Ransom replies he only says, “Nothing.” But when Ransom stays silent, the Un-Man still asks, over and over.
This brings Ransom’s slow realization about what his demonic, ultimate-evil enemy truly is.
[Ransom] taught himself to keep silent in the end: not that the torture of resisting his impulse to speak was less than the torture of response but because something within him rose up to combat the tormentor’s assurance that he must yield in the end. If the attack had been of some more violent kind it might have been easier to resist. What chilled and almost cowed him was the union of malice with something nearly childish. For temptation, for blasphemy, for a whole battery of horrors, he was in some sort prepared: but hardly for this petty, indefatigable nagging as of a nasty little boy at a preparatory school. Indeed no imagined horror could have surpassed the sense which grew within him as the slow hours passed, that this creature was, by all human standards, inside out—its heart on the surface and its shallowness at the heart. On the surface, great designs and an antagonism to Heaven which involved the fate of worlds: but deep within, when every veil had been pierced, was there, after all, nothing but a black puerility, an aimless empty spitefulness content to sate itself with the tiniest cruelties, as love does not disdain the smallest kindness?
This may explain political temper-tantrums and show the absurdity of the Disney movies.
If you’re a spiritual sister or brother from another cultural “mother,” you may offer another example; mine may suffer at least a selection bias, at least based on yesterday’s headlines.
Several articles covered the federal “shutdown,” because of which the American executive branch shut down some websites (including NASA.gov) and even closed attractions for no apparent reason. One incident occurred at the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C., a memorial that is outdoors, easily accessed, and which would require more federal costs to shut down than to leave alone. In short, that closure certainly appeared designed to prove to American citizens that they must suffer more than usual under this “shutdown.” The executive branch says: Fine, you want to shut down government? Then people can take THIS.
I would take all this back if evidence released that somehow, authorities who bring in more staff to close an always-open outdoor landmark somehow need less government resources than when it’s business as usual. But right now it looks like “an aimless empty spitefulness.”
Ransom’s thoughts on his enemy are so true: some enemies, in politics and any other field, are morally inside-out. On the surface they appear deep. Inside they’re infantile and nasty.
This is why attempts to explore backstories of some fictional villains seem so absurd. For now let’s bypass the fact that these are likely motivated only by name recognition; movie-makers want to cut through the “fog” of other media especially since the internet arrived. Who cares to know “the events that hardened [Maleficent’s] heart and drove her to curse young Princess Aurora,” as this IMDB description says? Who needs a story focusing solely on Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmatians? If there’s any deep thought going on here, it seems of the worst sort: that we must explore evil, explain it, give villains a backstory, every time.
Such explorations do not always add “realism” or nuance. If anything they provide escapist fantasies, taking us away from this fact: that some evils, when you look under their skins, are supported by the skeletal structure of absolutely nothing but “black puerility” and spite.