A Taste For Revenge

By Tim Sulka 

As the old saying goes, “revenge is a dish best served cold.” The idea behind that, of course, is the longer you obsess, wait, plot, plan, scheme and stew, the better revenge will taste when finally executed – like Restaurant Wars on Top Chef! But does revenge really taste better cold? And what comes with it? “Oh, waiter, I’ll have a side of sour grapes and smac n’ cheese with that cold revenge I ordered.”  “Hot” revenge suggests that a deed committed in the moment, with immediacy and passion, has many more chances to go awry and may not ultimately be as satisfying or interesting.

Todd Sweeney, the hero of Prime Cuts Volume 1 has had 10 long years to plan his revenge while being held in Laddsville Cosmetology Prison for Troubled Boys. Sure he’s learned a few tricks with a pair of scissors, but during his decade away, Todd’s taste for revenge only grew more intense. After all this time, Todd Sweeney’s revenge may be icy cold but as with all decent portions of revenge, a rage still burns deep inside him.

Since the earliest days of captivating audiences, the subject of revenge has been a hot topic for storytellers. Whether it’s around the campfire, in print, on a stage or screen, people relish tales of blood-thirsty vengeance. Why is that?  Is revenge a natural human emotion, like hunger, thirst or sexual desire?  Or is it something that is learned? As Shakespeare said, “If you wrong us, shall we not revenge?” It almost seems like revenge is more of a right, something we should do in order to get back at someone for a great wrong that has been done to us or to someone we care about. And if we don’t seek out revenge, what will people think of us? How will we ever raise our heads in society?!

As long as it matters to somebody, all the mayhem that is stirred up (after other mayhem has already been created) is justifiable. It is often the goal of the hero, one that an audience can easily swallow and still accept him or her as their champion; and yes, yes, a villain can seek vengeance, too, but their reasons aren’t usually as lofty as those of our hero. And it’s never going to go away. Countless books, plays, comics, movies and television shows use the revenge theme to motivate their characters. Heck, there’s even a TV show called “Revenge.” No doubts there!

Recently, there was an ad on Craigslist (albeit one that is hopefully tongue in cheek) looking to hire a “Vengeance Demon.” (Thanks, @midnight!) One can only wonder how deep the wound goes to want to hire an actual demon to perform the job! I wonder if the flavor of revenge is as sweet if you hire somebody else to do the job for you.

But where does this taste for revenge come from? What is this need so many of us hold onto? Is it retribution, plain and simple – once it’s over, it’s done? Perhaps we are base, volatile creatures who, once we take a bite of revenge never lose the taste for it (not unlike MacDonald’s French fries!). It’s also fine on the sports field, but what about when revenge leads to war between countries?

I suppose the opposite of revenge is forgiveness. But on paper, forgiveness is boring compared to a heaping helping of revenge. “Yes, I forgive you for your transgressions, my bitter enemy. You may go in peace.” If we could all live our lives that way, sure, the world would be a better place. It may be altruistic and nourishing to the soul, but it doesn’t make great drama – at least until the last few minutes of the story when we accept forgiveness as a way to “wrap things up” and go home.

When the mute monk asks Todd Sweeney (via sign language) “How will you exact your revenge?” Todd’s response is quick and terse – “By killing the man who destroyed my family.” Revenge doesn’t get much simpler than that. But what happens when revenge is thwarted? Is it possible for something better to come along to fill the time and satisfy that appetite for retribution? Is revenge transferrable? Does revenge begat revenge? In Prime Cuts, Todd Sweeney faces all these questions. And how can a wrong be righted if your need for revenge sets off a chain of horrific events that no one ever saw coming?

Copyright 2013 – Laddsville Entertainment