Last night my wife, Katie, and I watched the concluding two episodes of the BBC TV series The Fall, via Netflix. While I enjoyed watching the show, I was disappointed throughout for the use of Nietzsche’s philosophy in the characterisation of Paul Spector, with him quoting and drawing Nietzsche,due to how utterly un-Nietzschean I encountered him as a character. If you have not watched the show and would like to, please do not read ahead as I will spoil aspects for you.
To begin this, take a moment to look at this image from one of Spector’s note books, with a Nietzsche quote included –
This quote comes from aphorism 40 in Beyond Good and Evil. Spector’s need for a mask is entirely un-Nietzschean, in as much as Nietzsche’s description of the profound-mask wearer is part of his rejection of the profound dishonesty of moralistic-philosophies. Earlier in the aphorism Nietzsche states – “A man whose shame is profund encounters even his destinies and delicate decisions on paths which few ever reach and whose mere existence his neighbors and closest intimates must not know: his mortal danger is concealed from their eyes, and so is his regained sureness of life. Such a concealed man who instinctively needs speech for silence and to be silent and who is inexhaustible in his evasion of communication, wants and sees to it that a mask of him roams in his place through the hearts and heads of his friends; and supposing he did not want it, he would still realize some day that in spite of that a mask of him is there—and that this is good”. In as much as Nietzsche’s philosophy rejects the notion of shame, Spector’s mask that conceals him from the eyes of his neighbours and closest intimates (his wife and children) is a similar form of profound dishonesty as that of highly moral figures who wear masks to conceal their animal desires, who disgusted Nietzsche.
But as well as being a mask wearer, Spector is a murderer. I want to consider what a murderer is, what they do and the quality of this action. What a murderer does is they end the ability of a living individual to sustain their will-to-life – Spector doing this via suffocation. In so doing, a murderer is someone who says “no” to life, with the quality of the act being that murder is a no-saying to life. Nietzsche’s philosophy however is one of life-affirmation, as is described in his work The Gay Science as one of being a “yes-sayer”. Spector’s no-saying to life through murder has nothing of Nietzsche’s philosophy of mad-dancing, to embrace the mutual horror and joy of Being.
I now wish to focus on the destruction of the image of Spector having anything, really, to do with Nietzsche’s concept of ubermensch, as is suggested by the show and in this piece on the character. I will do this by specifically drawing from ideas found in his Thus Spoke Zarathustra, as this is where his concept of ubermensch is best described.
The character of Spector is motivated by hatred, of himself and the world around him. This self-hatred is what fuels his activities as a murderer. In the section Of Despisers Of The Body, Nietzsche speaks of such a person in saying “your Self wants to perish, and that is why you have become despisers of the body” and goes on to say “I do not go your way, you despisers of the body”.
Following from this, in his conversations with the character Katie Spector describes his actions as coming from a disgust towards his experiences of suffering. That is, he seeks to make others suffer – ultimately through murder – as he is repulsed by his suffering. In the section Of The Preachers Of Death, Nietzsche describes such an individual in saying “‘life is only suffering’ – thus others of them speak, and they do not lie: so see to it that you cease to live”. Nietzsche’s ultimate rejection of the preachers of death is totally at odds with Spector’s efforts to cease life, as a preacher of death.
Two of the qualities that Nietzsche values in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, which are not found in Spector’s character, are lust-for-power and selfishness. This might shock those who have a particular idea of what these qualities mean, but my meaning should become clear soon. With regards to selfishness, I wish to split it from the concept of selflessness, to differentiate the two. Rather than being selfish, Spector is entirely selfless, in as much as he seeks to render his presence an empty hollow space. He seeks to erase himself from his actions as a murderer, hide his childhood from his family and renounce himself from the world. With regards to lust-for-power, I wish to split power from repression. Rather than desiring the presence of powerful individuals, Spector actively seeks to repress power, through murder, seemingly out of an experience of him being-powerless. There is a pathetic quality to Spector that comes with this, which reminds me of this quote from the section Of War and Warriors – “in wickedness, the arrogant and weak man meet”. Spector’s attempts to disempower women whose bodies he despises is also at odds with Nietzsche’s thoughts in the section The Dance Song, which I encounter as a rejection of the disempowerment of women – “do not cease your dance sweet girls. No spoil-sport has come to you with evil eye, no enemy of girls”.
Finally, in his act of suicide, Spector reveals himself as someone without the aspects of character fitting Nietzsche’s mad embrace of everything terrible and beautiful, but as someone more akin to the suicidism of Cioran, renouncing the world out of piteous weakness.
Anyone familiar with my thought will know that Nietzsche is a personal inspiration and that I find him highly relevant for both anarchist and environmentalist philosophy. I find no celebration of abuse from this thinker who suffered a mental breakdown upon seeing a horse being beaten, and would rather see his thought affirmed than distortions continued.