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Originally published by The Good Men Project

“Monsters aren’t born. They are created”…  Are you buying that?

I’m so furious right now! I just got off the phone with my UCSB-student daughter, who informed me about a slasher film titled, Del Playa, being promoted for release. A petition with 20,000 signatures so far is being circulated by Santa Barbara college students calling for its halt, rightfully upset at the audacity of this writer/director capitalizing on the death of innocent victims from last summer’s Isla Vista shooting. The movie was filmed in Isla Vista, written and directed by a UCSB alumni, and has a protagonist stalker/murderer portrayed in a sympathetic light (“Monsters aren’t born. They are created”). The writer/director was quoted to say,

Our intentions were not to make light of such a serious issue, but to engage our audience in an active discussion about bullying and violence.

Are you buying that Good Men?

I’m more than skeptical. After all, the superficial, narcissistic online celebrity culture has taught us that profit and shameless self-promotion at the expense of others is acceptable. Everybody’s doing it!

Somebody’s feeling helpless and losing their composure? Film it and FaceBook it! Celebrate their downfall. Hilarious!

Sex on a yacht? Film it and arrange for it to be “stolen.” Publicly denounce the thief while signing your reality series contract.

Kids get gunned down in cold blood by a deranged murderer? Go to the same neighborhood and film a slasher film. Make the protagonist a bullied loner turned down by a beautiful cheerleader like the real-life murderer. Publicly apologize to the still-traumatized community while actively promoting the release of the film.

What the hell is happening to us? Have social media likes and potential for profit rented out the moral judgment center of our brains? Are we so jaded by disappointment that we no longer bother to speak out for the right? Are trolls now setting the tone of discussion just because they have no limits and limitless time? Please tell me my judgment is skewed from the perspective of a protective mother lion. Because I don’t like to think that we have, in fact, slid to such lows as a society.

I’m aware that I risk promoting this heartless film capitalizing on still-fresh pain and trauma. I’m honestly conflicted about it. But I also hope it sparks outrage that shames the film creators into pulling it from the shelves. Or maybe my article will remind us that six innocent kids were stabbed and gunned down in cold blood May 23, 2014, by a remorseless homicidal maniac; a young adult who wrote a detailed manifesto evidencing his evil plot to punish those who wronged him; a young adult who left a chilling YouTube video stating his indignation upon being rejected by beautiful women. It’s important that we don’t forget the victims and work harder for gun violence prevention.

I’m still sad for the murder victims’ families, as well as the Santa Barbara students stripped of their safety and sense of innocent celebration. I was a student at UCSB in the 1980s. My memories of Isla Vista are of partying hoards of sunburned college kids, laughing and playing Smash Ball at sunset at Dog Shit Park. In those days we feared midterms, finals, and that we might oversleep and miss one of the three parties we hoped to attend that night. These were the memories of innocence, our first try at independence and openly joyous friendship; the memories of university life outside of the library or classroom.

I have a daughter there now who heard the bullets and saw kids running in terror last summer, moments before she was planning to walk the same streets as the murderer’s bloodied victims. She came home and fell into my arms, afraid, confused, and sad.

We desperately tried to understand what had happened. We read the killer’s ranting manifesto on the living room couch, lit by the glow of news updates. We cried and ached for the parents who lost their young sons and daughters, the apples of their eyes, their lives taken when their futures were blossoming with possibility. We still work to patch together her recovery while trying to reclaim a fun-filled university experience.

Who in their right mind would think of filming a slasher film in the same community only one year later?

Somebody who spent hours with its creation somehow blind to the parallels and the pain it would cause? Somebody who thinks they can say there’s no connection when parallels are splashed all over the trailer like blood on asphalt? Somebody without basic empathy and compassion?

For those who know my work, you know I speak out against public shaming. You also know I’m a fierce advocate for the underdog, for families and kids. Today I’m calling for writer, director Shaun Hart and producer Josh Berger to pull their film in dedication of the grieving and the traumatized and reflect on their conscience. Or better yet, devote their creative enthusiasm in service of murder victims instead of providing violent fodder for the lost and the lonely.

Is this a first amendment rights issue or a human one? Weigh in, shout out, take a side! I’m proud of the Santa Barbara students speaking out. They give us hope that the world has not gone to hell in a hand basket. I’m with student writer Hector Sanchez Castaneda, who says

Listen to the people, Shaun, and do right by your alma mater.” 

I’m the mom psychologist who will help you GetYourKidsInternetSafe.

Onward to More Awesome Parenting,

Tracy S. Bennett, Ph.D.

Mom, Clinical Psychologist, CSUCI Adjunct Faculty


Photo Credit: STOP by Ryosuke Yagi, CC by 2.0

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Dr. Tracy Bennett