Sometimes, it’s the smallest disagreements that say the most about us. This debate divided people on social media.
The same way one’s position on whether the governess in The Turn Of The Screw is dealing with possessed children or her own sexual repression, or whether The Bride in Kill Bill is the villain because she didn’t forgive Bill and let bygones be bygones (yes, there are people who think that): both of these stances/viewpoints says something about the biases of the reader. So too does Billy’s “character” and “forgivable” rating among viewers say more about their pejudices than it does about the character himself.
White people, particularly white women were willing to overlook Billy’s racist, abusive nature because of this patriarchal, racist system and because, to them, Billy’s was breathtakingly attractive.
Billy is part of a violent home. It was made apparent in season 2, episode 8 which is the first and last time we see Billy’s father and Max’s stepfather. The father was onscreen for less than five minutes, but in that short snippet we see the toxic masculinity complete with homophobia and misogynistic traits. This gives us a small glimpse into Billy’s world.
This violence is later expanded on in season 3 when Eleven sees Billy’s childhood memories and we see that his father also abused his mother. These memories, both the happy memory of him surfing and spending time with his mother as a child, then the abuse as his mother leaving him, are what drives Billy’s anger and pain.
While Billy is the host for the monster and one of the main villains in season 3, he also sacrifices himself in the end to save Eleven.
Billy’s Redemption or No
Many white women were upset Billy died and felt he could’ve redeemed himself and become a better person had he been given more time.
Their are many questions to be raised. Would he still be “redeemable” if white women didn’t find him attractive? Would he be redeemable if racism and abuse weren’t normalized?
Some even blamed a child, who didn’t know what was going on, for Billy’s death.
How much does race, gender, and looks play a role when determining whether someone should be forgiven?
There are plenty of examples on social media, particularly with white people, where they are forgiven for racist actions or people refuse to see their actions as racist, as was the case with Billy.
It’s clear to non-white people that Billy was racist but many white people on social media didn’t see it. In season 2 episode, Billy tells his stepsister, Max, regarding her talking to Lucas, that there are a “certain type of people in this world that you stay away from, and that kid [Lucas] is one of them.” It’s clear what made Lucas the “certain type” but white people chose not to see it. Why? They also disregard the violent way that Billy grabs Max. Why? They disregard that later in the season he slams Lucas into a shelf and, had Steve not intervened, he would’ve done more. Why?
Too Close To Home
The reason, it’s easy for white people to forgive Billy is because he is a white male.
So Billy is racist. He could’ve changed, if given enough time. They mourn what could have been because they either see themselves in Billy’s racism or they see a friend, partner or family member in Billy’s racism. So, if Billy’s actions are unforgivable and Billy is irredeemable, what does that say about them?
The same applies to gender and toxic male abuse. Verbal and physical abuse by men is rampant and, thanks to societal drilling of entitlement for these behaviors into all of us, what we should scream and fight against becomes a “maybe they’ll grow out of it” platitude. Women sadly will also forgive men who are violent or stay in the hopes that their love will change them. So, if violent men shouldn’t be forgiven, what does that say about the ease with which they forgive Billy?
They don’t connect nor see the danger in mourning “potential”. This is what allowed New Jersey judge James Troiano to say to 16-year old rape and their mother to consider the damage they are doing to the rapist because he came from a “good family” and would likely go to a “very good college”.
What one may become has no bearing on the present and should never be used to determine judgement because their “potential” is rooted in your hope.
Can there be redemption? Of course. But it has to be desired and pursued by the person who wronged an individual or group, without shirking or hiding from any blast back they receive. It should not be handed to them because of our biases.
They have to want it. They have to earn it. Anything else is disinegenuous.