Written with help from Michelle Mastro
Are people born good or evil? In Eastern culture, it is widely recognized that everyone is born good, pure, and innocent. A person becomes good or bad, depending on the different education they receive afterwards. However, in Western culture, people are deeply influenced by the Christian belief of Original Sin, in which humanity has existed since the fall of men, stemming from Adam and Eve’s rebellion in Eden. So my question is, are we born with an innate moral compass or is it something we develop as we grow?
Horror films mirror societal fears and anxieties. Thus, the film The Bad Seed (1956) can help with our topic. This is an American psychological horror-thriller film with elements of melodrama and film noir. The main character, Rhoda, who has an “evil gene”, followed in the steps of a grandparent who was a killer. She too becomes a killer at a young age. The remake of the film, The Bad Seed directed by Rob Lowe in 2018, also looks at this topic of evil incarnate.
The recent version reuses the basic plot but updates the material somewhat. In this film, a girl named Emma is raised by a single father. She is smart and acts great in her school, she is pretty and sweet to everyone, but she is actually a psychopath who has a solitary, unsympathetic character. She shows no sympathy when she sees a cat drown, for example. In order to get the medal she wants but didn’t get, Emma tricks the boy for his medal, then pushes him down the rocks and leaves like nothing happened. In the end, she kills her own father and starts her new life with her aunt. At the very last scene, when her aunt is trying to comfort her from the sadness of losing her father, Emma seems very peaceful and even smiles.
How cruel can an eight-year-old little girl be? Although she inherits a killer-gene, it is still very astonishing to see a girl being so inhuman. Sometimes the film seems to suggest that her behaviors are partly influenced by the fact that she is raised in a single family. Her father, David, demonstrates a lack of responsibility in taking care of his daughter. He would leave his daughter to a strange nanny while he goes on dates and other adventures. Although It is true that Emma is genetically cold-hearted, she didn’t get the proper education to identify right from wrong by her father. Her father didn’t devote himself to parenting his child, instead David sits aside and depends on others (teachers in school or a nanny) to educate his child. David doesn’t realize that it is his responsibility to teach his child about having a moral compass.
However, in the film Orphan (2009), the girl’s evilness is entirely her fault. The child’s name is Esther and she is an adult who looks like a child. In fact, she has several criminal records before she is frosted by the couple in the movie. Esther is defined as mentally unstable and tries several times to kill their children. She is a destroyer of people’s life. Kate, as a brave mother, always tries her best to protect her children from getting hurt or turning evil. At the end of the film, Kate shouts at Esther “I am not your freaking mother” and kicked Esther into the lake.
People say “parents are the best teachers to their children.” Parents are the closest to their kids, and thus their behaviors will effect their children. Parenting is the process of teaching children the basic difference between right from wrong, and helping children establish their own values.
Jupiter Kang is a sophomore majoring in Finance. She used to think horror films were scary, but after watching the TV series Bates Motel, she started to enjoy horror. Jupiter is learning to master her second langauge English.