Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD!
Much has been said about the Netflix show The End of the F***ing World. As someone who read the graphic novel and recently finished the mini series, I thought I’d give my two cents and try to locate the character of James in my own context.
James is troubled. His mother kills herself in front of him in his childhood. His father is never able to directly deal with the psychological impact this incident has on James. Instead, his father avoids the issue altogether which makes matters worse. He doesn’t notice how James starts to slip away and recedes into himself. James finds solace in killing animals (not surprising behavior for most kids growing up). This becomes problematic as he starts enjoying afflicting violence even when he’s old enough to know it’s wrong. He’s not high on self harm but he puts his hand in a deep fryer just so he can “feel something.” At 17, James is ready to kill a human being. He is convinced that he is a psychopath.
This description conjures up the image of a Jeffrey Dahmer in the making. Dahmer, too, like James was a child who suffered through abandonment. He indulged in animal violence. He was a loner. And he was horrifyingly self aware (at least after he was caught for killing and cannibalizing a number of men). Dahmer’s case is a bit extreme but it’s fair to assume that if James is a psychopath, he could one day become the next Dahmer. Of course, that’s not what happens. James does end up killing someone but he does it out of apparent necessity, and he doesn’t enjoy it. In fact, it shakes him to his core (even though he gets over it rather quick). James realizes he is not a psychopath.
The mini series simply documents the coming of age of James, a troubled child who starts to understand himself and the world around him as he embarks on a dangerous journey and finds love in a questionable place. For what it’s worth, I’d recommend watching it. It’s smart, witty, edgy, and deeply emotional.
Do I know James?
Yes. And I think you do too. James is that edgy kid who listens to the old school music and tells everyone he was born in the wrong generation. He wears lots of flannel, works hard on his hair but acts like he couldn’t care less. He quotes racy poetry and thinks he’s deep because he read Machiavelli’s The Prince. He’s just a high school kid who thinks he has seen it all, done it all. Heavily delusional, tragically misguided, and intriguingly dangerous: James is a sad boy. But he’s also a rad boy.
I think the important thing to take away from the show is that James exists everywhere. It’s not a far fetched character. Sure, not every James might think he’s a psychopath but this sort of delusional outlook on life is very common in adolescents. Especially kids with problematic childhoods. I loved the fact that James wasn’t a psychopath. He’s a lost kid. And, honestly, so are a bunch of us.
So, yes. I know James. And I’m calling him out on his bullshit the first chance I get.