Real vs. fictional villains (or, the case of Luka Magnotta)

Disclaimer: This post is meant to be tongue-in-cheek and is definitely not intended to offend anyone. I don't take murder lightly at all, but sometimes, all we can do is throw up our hands and scream, "WTF is wrong with people?!"

I suppose, being a Canadian thriller writer with a blog called The Serial Killer Files, that I should comment on Canada's newest media murder darling, Luka Magnotta.

Photo courtesy of GlobalNews.ca
 
For those of you not familiar with the story, here's a quick rundown. Luka Magnotta, a 29-year-old prostitute and porn actor, is accused of killing and dismembering Montreal university student, Jun Lin. Magnotta videotaped the whole thing and posted it on a site called Best Gore *, and then mailed Lin's body parts to a bunch of different places, including a political office in Canada's capital city of Ottawa. He's currently facing five charges, including first degree murder and defilement of a corpse.

So.

As a thriller writer who's made up a few fictional killers of her own, I'll obviously be following the Magnotta case with great interest. The case is fascinating to me, and not just because of the depraved nature of the killing and the fact that it happened in Canada, but because of Magnotta's utterly desperate attempt at showmanship.

I mean, seriously. He posted the video online. Really?

After an international manhunt, Magnotta was arrested in Berlin and brought back to Montreal. At the time of his arrest, he'd been hanging out at an internet cafe, reading news reports about himself.

And I have to tell you, when I read this, I laughed. Because it's just, well . . . so frigging stupid.

As a writer, I can't help but think what a terrible fictional villain Luka Magnotta would make. If he wasn't a real person who killed another real person in a horrible way, his character wouldn't even qualify as interesting. But he's not a character in a book, he's real. And so of course the media is all over him. His treatment by police has even been compared to that of Hannibal Lecter.

But here's the thing. Hannibal Lecter was a great fictional villain because he was smart and original. Luka Magnotta, in this writer's humble opinion, would make an awful fictional villain because he's, well, an ego-driven dumb ass. Is Magnotta psychopathic? Sure, I think so. But is he smart? No, I don't think so.

And no writer or reader of fiction appreciates a villain who makes such colossal mistakes. If I created a villain like Magnotta, the novel would be a tough sell. It's just too crazy to think that someone would murder someone else, post it on the internet, and believe he could get away with it. My agent would laugh at me. The plot stretches credibility.

But. This isn't fiction. It really happened. And that's what makes the story so fascinating.

And heck, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Magnotta isn't so stupid after all. Maybe he even expected to get caught. If fame is Magnotta's ultimate goal – which I personally think it is – then we're giving him exactly what he wants. We're feeding into the media frenzy and plastering his face all over the news. Google "Luka Magnotta" and you'll get over 48,000,000 results. Two friends of mine, Ben Lelievre and Mark Pryor, have already blogged about him. And of course, I AM BLOGGING ABOUT HIM RIGHT NOW.

(I will not, however, watch that video, unlike this teacher who actually played it for his tenth-grade class.)

Magnotta may not be worthy of fictional villain status, but that doesn't matter, because he actually exists. Rightly or wrongly, we're entranced. And wasn't it Mark Twain who said that unlike fiction, the truth doesn't have to make sense?

* ETA: I originally mentioned YouTube as the site where the video was uploaded, as early articles about Magnotta referred to it, but I've since corrected this. Thanks to a reader for pointing this out.
 
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