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Sympathy for the Devil: Miscasting Elliot Rodger as a nice guy gone wrong

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How does one synthesize the hate-filled murder spree that hit the relatively sleepy Santa Barbara suburb of Isla Vista last Friday, May 23? Elliot Rodger planned to kill for many months, not just the beautiful women who he imagined rejected him, but his roommates, his family, and random strangers were all considered his “enemies” as he called them in his 137 page manifesto and in his videos uploaded to Youtube. It stemmed from a distressed mind and a deep hatred of women beyond reason. Since when is this the image of a “nice guy?”

The trouble is that many men who feel they have been jilted or rejected by women have shown support for Rodger. They imagine he was a “nice guy” who was rejected one too many times and tell girls to watch out. But, being rejected doesn’t mean you are “nice.” He hated everyone; his family, people who he thought were better off than him, and those he imagined were getting things he thought he deserved like love and sex. But he just didn’t think it through that relationships take some effort and social skills. Instead of learning social skills, he focused on his own twisted thoughts.

Rodger’s troubles began in childhood. Reports indicate that he has been treated for an undisclosed mental illness since the age of 8. From what he said in his videos, it seems like he had a narcissistic and sociopathic personality disorder with some kind of schizoaffective problems. Unfortunately, he lacked the charm that is typical of many narcissist.

He blamed his problems on his virginity, his height, and being rejected in high school, and said he was embittered because no woman had ever shown him love. He was so delusional that he thought that he would have women taking care of him and having sex with him to make him feel better if he were popular, despite his attempt to push people off a ledge when they weren’t interested in interacting with him. Most certainly he didn’t show any signs of being interested in an social interaction.

He decided he was going to make everyone pay with their lives for “mistreating” him. He was so narcissistic that he never stopped to wonder if his reactions were normal or what he could do to be more in tune with others. How can it be that anyone would look at Elliot Rodger’s videos, writings, and action and conclude he was actually a nice guy?

There are many young people who are virgins in college. Some very attractive people are shy with the opposite sex, others actively choose not to have sex because they are waiting for true love or the One. And these kinds of students are often marginalized as if they do not exist. But they do, indeed, exist in unexpected places, even in fraternities and in sororities.

He wanted to hang out with fraternity and sorority members and date hot blondes. Even when he posted his lonely videos on Google +, he wasn’t completely alone. One woman, Andrea Derrick, posted an invitation on Google +, “HMU if you ever need/want to talk. I know life can be pretty brutal, but you don't have to deal with it alone.” She didn’t know he was already dead having along with 6 others to an early grave, and 13 he had wounded. Had he been alive, would he have reached out to a woman who didn’t qualify as a “hot blonde?” It's doubtful.

He may have felt desperately lonely, but he wasn’t friendless in real life either. Family friends, roommates, and other students tried to befriend or help Rodger, but his reactions were not normal. Despite intense loneliness, he turned down offers of friendship and invitations to hang out with his roommates. One gets the impression that they weren't good enough.

A family friend, Simon Astaire, a published author who said he talked with Rodger about the lonliness of writers. "I felt happy I'd connected with him, but as I left and looked back I thought he looked like the loneliest man I had ever seen." He said of Rodger, "He was a fragile guy not violent. He was very distant, very reserved. He was so quiet, he never looked you straight in the eye, he would look at his shoes and shuffle and got startled if you started a conversation."

One of his former roommates, Chris Rugg, said Rodger accepted a few invitations to hang out and then stopped accepting invitations. Ultimately, Rugg chose to move out because he was “getting really uncomfortable living there.” Rugg said he could see that something was not right and overheard loud and angry talking which he presumed to be Rodger on the phone. It’s hard to say whether Rodger was talking to another person or responding to the voices in his head.

Andi Chan, Rodger’s friend of two years, related that after watching the movie “Chronicle” with a group of friends, Elliot Rodger wanted to “dominate the world” as in the film. “We all thought he was insane, but we were used to it,” Chan stated during the interview. “Maybe in his mind he really wanted to do that.”

“Me and my friends tried to help him. He doesn’t like to talk or hang out. He asked why the world is unfair to him. ‘I’m a good looking guy. Why do girls like ugly, fat guys?’” Chan continued. “I told him appearance wasn't everything.” It just doesn’t seem like Rodger was dealing in reality or he would have looked on the positive side of things.

Just ask Nick Vujicic about appearances not being everything. Vujicic overcame adversity with a positive spirit. Born with no arms or legs due to a genetic disorder, he became a motivational speaker and pastor. His positive spirit was so attractive that he found love, even though it took a long time in coming. His wife is beautiful, and he now has a perfectly normal son. But the key was mind and spirit. Instead, Rodger focused on outward appearances.

Rodger’s self-image was off. He was not cultured, polite gentleman as he claimed in his videos or in the blog he started. He was creepy and angry. In fact, when appearing with his father and stepmother on “Les Vrai Housewives,” (the French language edition of The Real Housewives franchise), he seemed off.

Walking the red carpet should mean wearing a suit and a smile. He wore neither. He did not present a well-dressed image in jeans and tennis shoes. His expression was flat, even as his father put an arm around him and introduced him around during the red carpet for “The Hunger Games.” His introduction is cut off due to editing, but the beginning of it is there.

For that matter, height is worthy of discussing. Josh Hutcherson, currently starring in The Hunger Games franchise as Peeta, is only 5’5” and quite dateable, having paired up with Vanessa Hudgens, among others. Tom Cruise at 5’6” is rather weird, but didn’t have problems attracting top notch girls – even being a little creepy and weird seems to be OK. Mickey Rooney really scored with the ladies in his day – even as he aged ungracefully. At all of 5’2” he was linked to Ava Gardner, Lana Turner, and Betty Grable. Talk to any jockey, getting girls is often not a problem. And Rodger? He was 5’9.” But girls and height weren’t really the Isla Vista Killer’s problem.

The New York Times added, when Rodger smiled at two girls waiting for a bus, he flipped a u-turn and soaked them with his Starbucks latte for not smiling back. But why would they be so friendly with this creepy stranger? He didn’t even stop to think about whether or not they had seen him at all. When he saw a bevy of beautiful blondes playing volleyball at the beach with some guys, he became so enraged that he filled a super soaker with orange juice and wet them down. Again, how is this kind of behavior remotely “nice?”

Not many girls want to go out with a boy who reacts with anger, or who fantasizes about winning the lottery and buys $700 worth of tickets, hoping to win enough money to be attractive to the opposite sex. And most women certainly wouldn’t want a boyfriend who spent his days planning to kill people, throwing coffee on them, or anything else like that. His inability to score with the ladies had nothing to do with looks or height, and everything to do with demeanor. He just wasn’t a nice guy and he couldn’t connect with people.

The point is obvious, truly nice guys don’t react with rage. Nice guys don’t plan to kill people. Nice guys don’t stalk people. Nice guys don’t make videos about killing people, or write manifestos. And being a 22 year old virgin or “incel” (involuntary celibate) doesn’t make people go on killing sprees. In trying to make sense of Rodger’s senseless violence, one might wonder if being a part of a faith community would have helped him. But even with the love he did have in his life, and the friend who didreach out to him, he just wasn’t able to see it was there. In a life of privilege, touched by fame, this was the life he chose; the life of a killer.

The BTK Killer, Dennis Rader, was active in his faith community as President of his congregation, Cub Scout troop leader volunteer, a married man with children. BTK killed 10 people in outrageously cruel ways. Ironically, he was great at teaching how to tie knots. The B in BTK is for “bind.” Rader’s warning signs included restraining orders for stalking. And being in a faith community did nothing to keep a killer on the straight and narrow path. Elliot Rodger seems to be of similar ilk. The warning signs abounded, but in both cases, authorities were slow to catch on.

As one of the most recorded of killing sprees, you can see all of The Santa Barbara Independent’s articles and check out one which has the police EMS scanner.

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