Killing 'Just for Fun': Amoral Monsters

Belinda Morrissey

    Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookChapter

    Abstract

    On June 18, 2006, in Collie, a Western Australian mining town, two teenage girls strangled their friend, Eliza Davis, with speaker wire. They had no motive for doing so, other than their claim that they wanted to “experience” killing someone. In the girls’ terms, their acts had no moral force; indeed, it was an entirely amoral act, divorced from any concept of compassion or ethical behaviour. This paper will argue that the appellation “monster” has a moral dimension on the part of those who use it to describe another’s behaviour. It will place the case it considers in the context of a long line of earlier “thrill kills” where teenagers have killed just “for fun.” It will examine the tension between the public condemnation of these killers as “monsters” and the killers’ own amoralistic explanation for their acts. It will analyse whether or not amorality is, in itself, monstrous, or whether it problematizes the concept of the “monster,” specifically in moral and ethical terms. This paper will diverge from earlier studies of amoral acts, including those of Hannah Arendt and Shoshana Felman on Adolf Eichmann, in that it will move beyond the spectre of the amoral “agent” only “following orders” to justify his deeds, to the figures of these two young girls, and others who came before them, who killed merely because they wanted to, not even because they were asked by someone else to do so. The paper will argue that there is a great difference, even in shades of amorality, between “following orders” and deliberately deciding on one’s own behalf to kill so as to try out the experience. It will claim that in many ways, these teenaged “thrill killers” are both more monstrous than someone like Eichmann, and at the same time, less monstrous; both more responsible and even further steeped in an amoral universe. Finally, the paper will consider our very capacity to judge these girls. If they are so unlike “us” in their amorality, can we evaluate them in “moral” terms, and denounce them as “monsters”? For, as the paper will observe, these seemingly vacuous thrill killers are our community’s most vehement examples of the “Other”: Terrifyingly incomprehensible, yet uncanny reminders of the capacities for violence and mercilessness present in all of us.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe Monstrous Identity of Humanity : Monsters and the Monstrous, Myths & Metaphors of Enduring Evil: Proceedings of the Fifth Global Conference
    EditorsMartin C Bates IV
    Place of PublicationOxford UK
    PublisherInter-Disciplinary Press
    Pages255-263
    Number of pages9
    ISBN (Print)9781907410530
    Publication statusPublished - 2008

    Fingerprint

    Killing
    Fun
    Thrill
    Monstrous
    Adolf Eichmann
    Wire
    Appellation
    Compassion
    Deeds
    Shade
    Teenagers
    Hannah Arendt
    Condemnation
    Spectre
    Universe

    Cite this

    Morrissey, B. (2008). Killing 'Just for Fun': Amoral Monsters. In M. C. B. IV (Ed.), The Monstrous Identity of Humanity : Monsters and the Monstrous, Myths & Metaphors of Enduring Evil: Proceedings of the Fifth Global Conference (pp. 255-263). Oxford UK: Inter-Disciplinary Press.
    Morrissey, Belinda. / Killing 'Just for Fun': Amoral Monsters. The Monstrous Identity of Humanity : Monsters and the Monstrous, Myths & Metaphors of Enduring Evil: Proceedings of the Fifth Global Conference. editor / Martin C Bates IV. Oxford UK : Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2008. pp. 255-263
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    abstract = "On June 18, 2006, in Collie, a Western Australian mining town, two teenage girls strangled their friend, Eliza Davis, with speaker wire. They had no motive for doing so, other than their claim that they wanted to “experience” killing someone. In the girls’ terms, their acts had no moral force; indeed, it was an entirely amoral act, divorced from any concept of compassion or ethical behaviour. This paper will argue that the appellation “monster” has a moral dimension on the part of those who use it to describe another’s behaviour. It will place the case it considers in the context of a long line of earlier “thrill kills” where teenagers have killed just “for fun.” It will examine the tension between the public condemnation of these killers as “monsters” and the killers’ own amoralistic explanation for their acts. It will analyse whether or not amorality is, in itself, monstrous, or whether it problematizes the concept of the “monster,” specifically in moral and ethical terms. This paper will diverge from earlier studies of amoral acts, including those of Hannah Arendt and Shoshana Felman on Adolf Eichmann, in that it will move beyond the spectre of the amoral “agent” only “following orders” to justify his deeds, to the figures of these two young girls, and others who came before them, who killed merely because they wanted to, not even because they were asked by someone else to do so. The paper will argue that there is a great difference, even in shades of amorality, between “following orders” and deliberately deciding on one’s own behalf to kill so as to try out the experience. It will claim that in many ways, these teenaged “thrill killers” are both more monstrous than someone like Eichmann, and at the same time, less monstrous; both more responsible and even further steeped in an amoral universe. Finally, the paper will consider our very capacity to judge these girls. If they are so unlike “us” in their amorality, can we evaluate them in “moral” terms, and denounce them as “monsters”? For, as the paper will observe, these seemingly vacuous thrill killers are our community’s most vehement examples of the “Other”: Terrifyingly incomprehensible, yet uncanny reminders of the capacities for violence and mercilessness present in all of us.",
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    Morrissey, B 2008, Killing 'Just for Fun': Amoral Monsters. in MCB IV (ed.), The Monstrous Identity of Humanity : Monsters and the Monstrous, Myths & Metaphors of Enduring Evil: Proceedings of the Fifth Global Conference. Inter-Disciplinary Press, Oxford UK, pp. 255-263.

    Killing 'Just for Fun': Amoral Monsters. / Morrissey, Belinda.

    The Monstrous Identity of Humanity : Monsters and the Monstrous, Myths & Metaphors of Enduring Evil: Proceedings of the Fifth Global Conference. ed. / Martin C Bates IV. Oxford UK : Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2008. p. 255-263.

    Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookChapter

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    Morrissey B. Killing 'Just for Fun': Amoral Monsters. In IV MCB, editor, The Monstrous Identity of Humanity : Monsters and the Monstrous, Myths & Metaphors of Enduring Evil: Proceedings of the Fifth Global Conference. Oxford UK: Inter-Disciplinary Press. 2008. p. 255-263