I killed today. There was a spider scuttling across my covers while I was trying to read. I cornered it with a balled up tissue in my hand and took its life. Before throwing the tissue away I turned it over, as you do after blowing your nose, to see what shit you’ve expelled, and the spider gave a little kick with one of its legs. I turned and shot a beautiful three pointer right into the trash. There were no deep philosophical implications to my act. There was nothing like Vardaman’s sublime realization of the reality of death in Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, “My mother is a fish.” That powerful Faulkner image finds a contemporary echo in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 2 (“Is that not the perfect image of life and death? A fish flapping on the carpet”), but it can hardly be as profound today. On the contrary, Tarantino’s movies celebrate the flippancy of death. There are 98 deaths in his Kill Bill series, most of them bloody and yet cartoonish.
Over Christmas I played the latest Call of Duty. Being a pretty savvy player I was taking out 20 or 30 enemy soldiers per game. I racked up around 3000 kills. I was a serial killer. I can’t help but wonder about the effect this kind of media is having on us, the serial killer becoming so commonplace in our cultural experiences. The act of killing becomes something we do in our games, something we see routinely on TV–in Dexter, The Following, Breaking Bad. The killing is close and yet distant. Inured to it, we may no longer even associate killing with death, which is waiting for us as surely as it was for that spider. // Jake Jones