Content warning: This title is extremely dark and features incredibly intense scenes of sexual abuse and torture and I'm going to talk about it. Like, it's bad enough that the reason I'm making a post here instead of a video is because I think Youtube would legitimately give me a strike. If that's something that seriously bothers you, consider giving this post a pass.
Also, minor spoilers ahead, but nothing that should harm your experience if you decide to check it out for yourself.
So recently I decided to read Blackheart Hotel, which is an indie OELVN that has a bit of an extreme reputation. See, I love my fluffy moege as much as the next guy, but I'm also fascinated by stories that explore dark topics. And Blackheart Hotel DEFINITELY gets dark. As a piece of writing, I'd say it's decent. Maybe a bit above average. Nothing super special. But the thing that intrigued me is that it features one of the most genuinely evil and scary protagonists I've seen. And it's not like most "villain protagonists" where they're cartoonish, lovable, or so over-the-top that they belong in a children's show. Jacky of Blackheart Hotel is an intense but grounded type of evil. The kind of evil that could and most certainly does exist in reality. What freaks me out about Jacky is that people like him are real. He's one sick twisted motherfucker and I can't stop thinking about it.
So what makes him so evil? His story is that he was brought up in a mob family and was essentially groomed into doing their dirty work from a young age. As a result, he was raping, torturing, and murdering as a young teen. Later on in life, he was half-removed from that negative influence (the details aren't necessary here and I'd rather avoid unneeded spoilers), but the damage had been done. He still had evil impulses and taking advantage of people came second-nature to him. [Note: Last chance to dip out before I talk about fucked up shit] Now, many of the more extreme H scenes are avoidable through dialogue, but it really doesn't change the story and I suspect it only exists as a glorified skip button. Also, avoiding all the "evil" actions makes some of the dialogue towards the end not make sense, so I'm going to assume the bad stuff is canon. So what are some of these actions? I've got pretty thick skin, so if even I consider them fucked up, they're pretty bad. Well, when his mob past catches up with him, he kind of falls back into his old ways and he goes WAY further than he used to. He begins to take pleasure in inflicting suffering. He takes women captive and abuses them for hours on end. He forces a man to watch as he beats and rapes his wife (and then optionally murders one or both of them). He rapes a mother and daughter, forcing them to be intimate with one another and shoots the mother in the head at the end. He rapes a woman over her sister's corpse. REALLY fucked up shit.
But it's not just shock value for its own sake. Yes, the shock value IS a factor, but it's not the entirety. In my eyes, Jacky serves as an interesting look at a character who is absolutely NOT sympathetic, but over the course of the story, we come to understand him and why he is the way he is. Of course, his mind was fucked at a young age by all the terrible shit he was forced to do (we actually see glimpses of him before all that, and he actually had a moral compass at the time). But also, the attempts to get him out of that life were done by people who really had no clue how to actually help him. But we do actually see that he had potential at one point to be a good person. In his youth, he showed mercy to what was supposed to be his first victim. As an adult, he's fiercely loyal and protective of those few people he cares about. And though his morality is fucked, when he has a moral code, he sticks to it without question, such as when he protected a mob-connected woman from an attacker. But everyone around him is either an enabler or a manipulator. His female coworkers are simply incapable of standing up to him. His love interest Paige becomes an active participant in his escapades due to her own history of sexual abuse. His other love interest Candyce is so infatuated with him that she tries to adapt to his lifestyle rather than trying to set him straight. And of course, all the mob people want to encourage his behavior so they can use him for their own ends. Jacky is the kind of guy who could have been fairly normal, but he was constantly surrounded by the worst influences and practically zero positive ones. Hell, even his own mother... wasn't exactly the best at helping him.
What I'm getting at is despite the extreme lengths this character goes to, he's not just a "make this guy as evil as possible," one-dimensional character. Jacky is a fascinating look at pure, genuine evil and it's something I never really see in pretty much ANY type of media. Even if you look at something like Nabokov's Lolita, you see an evil man trying to convince himself that he's good. Jacky is pure evil, broken, and revels in the suffering of others. And he's self-aware. He states on multiple occasions that he's not a good person and if Hell exists, he's going there. I'm not actually sure where I'm going with all this, but I am still dumbstruck by how this is one of the most interesting takes on evil I've ever seen and it's wrapped up in a story that's honestly not even all that good. I just had to get these thoughts out of my head. While I can't say that this story is my favorite or anything, I'm very glad I took the time to read it. It made me think and it gave me the brain worms. Honestly, I think that this is going to color how I look at evil characters in fiction for a long time to come.
I know this was a very self-indulgent post, but I'd love to hear your thoughts. On BH if you've read it, or on evil as a story tool. And as far as Blackheart Hotel goes, I'd say check it out if you can handle the extreme content. Just keep in mind that while you can avoid the worst stuff, it doesn't make a whole lot of in-universe sense (seriously, avoiding these scenes only leads to slight dialogue variations. I did a readthrough avoiding anything "evil" and one where I purposely sought them out. No changes). But if that will fuck you up, and I don't blame you if it does, there's no real harm in skipping it. You're not missing out on peak fiction here.