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Dr. Nikhil Joshi Headshot

Why Seth Rogen Isn't Responsible for the California Shooting

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It should be evident to the majority of us that a movie star who writes and stars in comedies isn't responsible for the rampage that 22-year-old Elliot Rodger perpetrated in California. Yet even though the Washington Posts' Ann Hornaday has further explained her position in a new video, a day after Rogen tweeted his outrage at the suggestion his movies somehow influenced the crime in an opinion piece written by Hornaday, the whole thing feels strange.

It isn't strange that there is now another conversation in the media on gun control. This is an essential American conversation that was going to happen. Nor is it strange that people are looking to cast blame -- this is also a fundamentally human act in the face of tragedy.

No. What is strange is that the tragedy is being psychoanalyzed to a logically bereft level. Let's keep it simple. I think what many people/news organizations have as a central theme in this incident is: This young man killed people because he wasn't "good with women." And in his manifesto he alludes to this often. What is truly chilling is how ordinary his story is. His manifesto tells the story of a young man who is hypersensitive and gets rejected by his peers and romantic interests and mulls over it his whole life. There are lots of men who are bitter about feeling unconfident interacting with women.

In Rogers manifesto, he describes an incident when he is 15 years old in high school, and he thinks he has an epiphany after watching one of his bullies interacting with some young women. Rogers wrote:

This was what truly opened my eyes to how brutal the world is. The most meanest and depraved of men come out on top, and women flock to these men. Their evil acts are rewarded by women; while the good, decent men are laughed at. It is sick, twisted and wrong in every way. I hated the girls even more than the bullies because of this.

The part about this that really scares me is that I hear these sentiments and worldview often in various forms like "nice guys finish last" and "women like men who treat them badly." These are not exactly original thoughts -- especially in today's world. So why pick on Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow? Because they make movies where good guys get extraordinary women and the world supposedly isn't actually like that?

I think that's the sad and strange part -- that people such as Elliot Rodgers feel that those ideas are true. This young man never knew what it was like to be on a truly wonderful date, never received romantic love and never led a life of kindness. Because if he had then he would know the following: that being a good person is its own reward. That people who give love are eventually loved in return. That rejection and failure happen ubiquitously and can be forgotten -- but one genuine moment of connection can validate an entire life. That he didn't have to be alone in the world. That life gets better provided you don't give in to bitterness. That misogyny, like racism, homophobia or any other form of discrimination denies the owner to any genuine happiness in this world.

So no, it's not Seth Rogen's or Judd Apatow's fault that a lonely, angry boy murdered six innocent people. But you already knew that -- didn't you?