Revenge is a relatively new television show that has done well in the ratings. There is intrigue, nice settings and a top cast. Revenge is also something that turns up quite often in movies and literature.
Plenty of people dream of ‘getting even’ with past wrong doers. Some people even make plans on how to ‘get even’ and eventually carry them out. The thing about ‘getting even’, though is that no one really succeeds in doing so. Usually by the time the persecuted are able to rise up and strike back the playing field has changed.
Someone who was utterly horrid in their youth might have a change of heart and become a much better human being. You could get revenge on them for past misdeeds but the person you really want revenge on is them the way they were back when and not the way they are now. Hell! They may not even remember all the misdeeds of their past and be sorry if they really had committed them. Striking back soon after the offense has bee made would seem to be the best way to go but for many people this just isn’t possible.
In a playground near Dubbo in NSW some years ago, I stopped a fight between two boys in their early teens. One was the class bully who was outraged that this skinny kid he’d been picking on most of the year wanted to fight back. He was a dumb S.O.B and, if I’d been anything but an adult at the time, I’d have liked to have thumped him but good in place of the other weaker looking kid. I hate bullies, especially sports freak bullies.
Meanwhile the skinny kid was on a kamikaze mission. Things had gotten so bad for him that he didn’t care if he got beat to death just so long as he got a few good punches in. It was the skinny kid who had started the ruckus. He’d snapped from past abuse and his mind was set on what he had to do. I believe he’d spent the early part of the day working on his courage and his self righteous anger. If might truly had anything to do with being in the right I wouldn’t have intervened. As things stood, I had to prevent the skinny one from getting hurt. I don’t know if I did him any favors by doing so. I don’t know if the talking to both boys got from the principal penetrated into the head of the bully. Sometimes it is hard to know what to do about bullying.
Quite possibly the bully mentioned has already forgotten this incident and the others he was primarily responsible for. Hopefully the desire for revenge doesn’t continue to haunt the skinny kid. It is difficult to know where bullying begins and where it ends. The same can be said for revenge.
In the movie The Breakfast Club (1985), a former jock gets his high school jock son to pick on a smart kid because he still hates high school smart kids. The son doesn’t want to do this and only does it to please his dad. Then he has regrets about picking on someone who could be his friend for reasons that don’t make a lot of sense to him. In the end the jock and the smart kid make peace with one another. Thus this particular chain of hatred is broken and the desire the smart kid might have for revenge against the young jock is also broken.
An old saying has it that the person seeking revenge had best dig two graves. There’s something in this. Revenge can consume one’s life to where, once the deed is done, there’s nothing to go on with.
It is said that the best revenge you can have against your detractors is to be successful. Even though this is often the tougher option to swallow, it is the best. You may think that once you make it big you’ll look down and scoff at your old enemies. Generally speaking, those who do make it big never go in for the looking down or the scoffing. They have far more important and often far more pleasurable things to occupy their time and their minds with. Those who have helped you get somewhere have got to be, in the end, far more important than someone who was once a bully or a downer.
Revenge is a motivating force in many of Agatha Christie’s novels. She took this motive to exceptional heights and lows in Murder on the Orient Express where virtually everyone on the train has revenge as a reason to murder a particular passenger.
In the D.C universe, a boy’s parents are killed by a small time hood and that boy, when he grows up, becomes the caped crusader, Batman.
Then there’s Marvel Punisher. A man’s family is wiped out by a crime boss and, for his revenge, the man becomes a vigilante, The Punisher. Much like Batman, as a vigilante he spends his days and especially his nights warring on crime.
In my novel, Disco Evil, the driving force behind Paul Priestly is revenge on all male and female jocks. When he is made over into a vampire he realizes he can have all the revenge he can handle.
Over time, however, Paul begins to understand that such revenge eats away at him till there’s nothing else left and finally ends in his second death. Paul, when he is human, sees the hippy ideal of ‘make love, not war’ perverted by the Sydney disco scene and it is there, as a member of the undead, that he first seeks recompensed in blood.
In my novel, Ghost Dance, a young vampire named Petra becomes all too aware of how the desire for revenge on the Germans by the English and French after the First World War inevitably led to the Second World War. She is also aware that love, even hope, can change the present and make for a better future.
In my latest work, Desk Job, the seekers of revenge on past sexists and racists only manage to create new forms of sexism and racism. The idea that everyone should be equal is there but the practice is that some people are more equal than others. Meanwhile, where people are treated in a fair and open manner, work of a higher standard does get done and cooperation between various groups isn’t very difficult to achieve after all.