…must take care that they themselves do not become one.
It is very easy to become a monster, if we define monsters by their actions. I don’t think this is a bad way to go about things because we don’t or can’t truly see a motive so our only way to only way to judge what it is is by actions. This is less the case with fictional characters because the author can show and tell you a character’s motive since you can get into their head.
But regardless of motive, there are some actions that are always evil. While killing someone might be necessary, murder is always evil. Rape is always evil. Even with the best intentions, I think that controlling someone in any way to do what you think they should do is evil. Torture is pretty arguably always evil. In these cases, motive doesn’t really matter, does it?
So if a monster is a monster because of the things he does, looking for sweet, sweet revenge or a misunderstanding of karmic retribution usually wind up creating another monster. Especially “karmic retribution”. When someone does something bad and the same thing happens to them, I mean I’m no expert on karma but I’m pretty sure that’s actually probably not karma. And if someone has done something terrible and you want the same thing to happen to them…we just established they’re a monster because of the terrible thing. The whole point is that the terrible thing should never happen in the first place. How does it make things better that it happened again?
There’s also the path of willingness to do anything to stop the enemy. In a way, it’s just reframing the revenge aspect. Or perhaps, vengeance is a specific type of this idea. You’ll go to any lengths, set no boundaries, to defeat the enemy, meaning you won’t even set boundaries that set yourself apart from the enemy. You’ll set no boundaries to punish the enemy, not even boundaries that set yourself apart from the enemy. It’s all the same path, really, just different reasons for going down it.
Consider General Wade Eiling from Justice League Unlimited.
He really hates any superhuman. Maybe he’s actually jealous, maybe he’s just really afraid of what he doesn’t know. Who’s to truly say? All he says is that superpowered people are dangerous and implies that they should all be killed.
So what does he do when his initiative stops doing so much to prepare for war against them? When his current plans aren’t coming to fruition the way he wants, when he feels less safe against the dangerous superpowered enemies?
Why, he goes into the secret military archives to fetch a failed Nazi’s version of the Captain America serum* and injects himself to get superpowers despite the fact that he knows it’ll mutate him too.
When he first challenges the Justice League, he steps right into the role of villain monster, too. He goes to a parade where Superman was supposed to be, but instead there’s five members who don’t even have superpowers, like Green Arrow. And he starts totally trashing everything and taking no care for civilians, who he was supposed to be protecting from the “dangerous superhumans” in the first place. Which they call him out on. Which he just uses the age-old villain favorite: in order to make an omelet…
Eventually the group of five chase him off by pointing out he’s become what he hates, and seeing the hatred in the eyes of the civilians, Wade leaves.
*I mean, yes, I know this is DC but come on, that’s pretty much what it was.
Course this all started in the first place because of the Justice Lords, back when it was just the Justice League.
The Justice Lords were born (in an alternate reality) when Superman killed Lex and the heroes took the angle of “if we control everyone, no one will do wrong, and the world will be safe.” As usual, it winds up being a scary tyranny.
And guess what? It’s the exact same thing as Wade. Because the Justice League is supposed to fight bad guys. They’re supposed to fight those who threaten the freedom of the people of Earth. When aliens come down and try to enslave Earth, the Justice League fights them. And the Justice Lords are no different than aliens trying to enslave the earth. Especially since three of them are aliens, for crying out loud! In other words, though they can’t see it, they’ve become what they were out to destroy in the first place. They dropped their boundaries, as represented by Superman reneging on his decision to never kill, and thus became monsters.
No wonder Wade, on learning about these guys, was so afraid of them.
You put down your guard, you allow things to be “okay” in certain or any circumstances, you start tumbling down the mountainside of becoming a monster yourself. And even if you don’t represent exactly what you were trying to destroy, you’re still a monster.
And as for real life – because this trope runs so incredibly rampant in today’s society, I see it all the time just logging onto Facebook – remember that there are some things you just don’t do, because those things are bad. It doesn’t matter what the monster you are trying to fight or punish did. You do not get to behave like a monster just because the other guy is a monster. If you want real life examples of how easy it is for someone to justify his monstrous behaviors, look no further than those who think it’s funny when rapists are raped in jail, or those who think that we should kill terrorists who are Muslim with something involving pig fat, which according to their religion would deny them entrance to heaven. While these people are monsters, no doubt! condoning rape under any circumstances is not acceptable and that’s not what a good person does, and condoning torture, likewise. Good people do not allow these things no matter what. Those who are villains allow allow those boundaries to sink.