Kathryn Linder: Rampage Violence Narratives: What Fictional Accounts of School Shootings Say About the Future of America’s Youth

Plymouth, Lexington, 2014,168 pp, ISBN: 978-0739187500

Dylan Karnedy1

Received: 3 March 2016 / Accepted: 9 March 2016 / Published online: 24 March 2016

� Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

In 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into

Columbine High School and murdered 13 people while

injuring 21 others. Events like this leave a lasting

impression on media and society, creating a culture of fear

in which we live. Kathryn Linder in Rampage Violence

Narratives discusses fictional narrative culture that fol-

lowed this tragic event. By finding reinforced societal

norms and meaning behind the text, Linder argues that

these narratives show a broken American school system

that must be changed. She breaks her argument into four

chapters with four different topics, including the repre-

sentation of race in media, heteronormativity and its effect

on society and literature, female shooters, and, finally, the

adult’s role in the creation of youth identity. Overall, using

the evidence found in a slew of rampage violence narra-

tives produced following the massacre, Linder describes

the problems found in American society highlighted in

these books and movies. With this evidence, she incorpo-

rates both real world and textual evidence to back her

claims and furthers her argument on how America can

change to prevent heinous acts like these. Altogether,

Linder presents a very balanced and thoughtful argument

that highlights the underlying causes of what appears to be

a growing trend of rampage violence in America.

In her introduction, Linder first introduces the atrocities

that occurred in the late 1990’s and the firestorm that they

started. The first point she makes is why the American

media lead an assault on the white hegemonic society fol-

lowing the columbine massacre. The media turned this into

a ‘‘spectacle of terror’’ (Linder 2014, p. xiv) in which two

white suburban males assaulted a school; this overturning

all the predisposed notions of the tranquility of suburban,

white communities. The question then arose, if this kind of

violence takes place every day in the urban community,

where is the media attention? The action of these two boys

threatened a blurred line between the violence of black and

white communities. This toppled white hegemony and

started the culture of fear. Following the massacre, the

media grasped at anything they could get their hands on to

blame for the actions of the pair. They targeted violent

video games, television, and films rather then the institution

and the victims themselves for the actions taken. Once the

fiction displayed in videogames or television, ‘‘Youth vio-

lence now blurs ‘the dividing line between true and false’’’

(Linder 2014, p. xvi). The dynamic change not only tar-

geted many forms of media but also later turned to the

vilification of symbols like the trench coat and forms of

music deemed deviant. Linder then shifts the scope to the

institution of education. She tells of education being the

stepping-stone for American youth into our democratic

society. In reality, schools perpetuate the worst in American

hatred through physical and emotion bullying brought on by

hormonal peers. Since this population is so under devel-

oped, the government and adults must take responsibility

for the youth’s safety and wellbeing. They do this by

attempting to form everyone into the same idealized mold

in which most of us came from. This new trend in rampage

violence started a style within the novel and film industry to

try and understand why senseless violence occurred. This

trend, as Linder argues, created a new genre based in

hyperreality and myth tells the story of the shooter from

their perspective. Through myths like these, the American

public is supposed to be reassured that there are ways in

which to fix the blurring of urban violence into suburban/

rural communities.

& Dylan Karnedy

1 Indiana University Bloomington, Bloomington, IN, USA


J Youth Adolescence (2016) 45:1048–1052

DOI 10.1007/s10964-016-0464-8

In her first chapter, Linder sets the stage of her argument

by highlighting the race norms found within early 2000’s

narratives. These race norms are based on the comparison

between the urban education community and the suburban/

rural education community. As presented in the introduc-

tion, Linder first offers why such violence is only shocking

when taking place in white communities; she puts forth that

the dominant white media has created two different soci-

eties displacing black youth in America, and associating

them with a culture of violence. So, when a white youth is

found to have broken the law, they are deviant in their

behavior while a black youth is just part of the norm. This

dissimilarity is presented as the meaning behind why vio-

lent crimes are committed; while urban violence is typi-

cally gang and drug related, the violence in the white

community is more shocking because it is cold hearted,

planned, and meant for vengeance. Additionally, while the

media has created this myth of the criminal black com-

munity, ‘‘Between 1976 and 1996, felony arrest rates

consistently increased for white adults (over age thirty) and

simultaneously decreased for minority youth’’ (Linder

2014, p. 3). In addition, because of the perception for

reputation of gang culture in urban community violence, it

becomes the norm rather than the exception in mass media

and narratives. Linder offers a glimpse into the perception

of the urban community with the film Freedom Writers. In

this film, a teacher, Mr. Grewell, is surrounded by this

culture of violence and is witness to all out riots on school

grounds. This hegemony and distortion of white versus

black life in schools is brought to light by two films, 187

and Elephant. 187 is a film about a black teacher in an

urban community that perpetuates the violence around him

and is corrupted by it. Due to an attack at a previous school

in New York the main character, Trevor Garfield, moves to

teach in a school in California and is visibly affected by

this senseless act of violence. After his move, he again is

surrounded by meaningless violence and propagates this

culture by eventually mutilating a student and killing

another. The film depicts a feeling of hopelessness and

continuity of violence that is so entwined within the culture

and will never be rooted out. Alternatively, Elephant pre-

sents the sad life of a white student, John, who has an

alcoholic father, is relentlessly bullied, and estranged for

his involvement in the LGBTQ alliance program. John is

alienated from his peers, and adults and teachers are

clueless to the constant struggles of the students. While

justification of John’s rampage violence in the film is

lacking, Linder offers that it shows white youth violence is

not a norm. Instead it blames ‘‘Bullying, violent video-

games and television, the availability of guns online, and

mental illness of youth’’ (Linder 2014, p. 30) as the causes

of an outsider’s violence. This difference between urban

and suburban culture portrayed in the media explains their

response to a white school shooter in comparison to the

violence that occurs in urban schools. This desensitization

of urban violence alienates these youth into a separate

culture and cycle of violence. The vulgarity of the media in

its portrayal of violent offenders takes away the human

condition of these offenses and often time’s pushes youth

out of society for these actions.

In her next chapter, Linder discusses the trend and effect

of ‘‘queering’’ in schools and the media in the 2000’s.

Heteronormativity in American society is not a new thing,

until recently society and the media shunned the gay and

lesbian community by deeming them deviant. This vilifi-

cation of the LGBTQ community isolated many, even in

the case of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, to the breaking

point. While the pair didn’t identify as homosexual, their

peers ‘‘queered’’ them by calling them ‘‘fag’’ and other

derogatory terms to emasculate and isolate them. Linder

introduces the idea of the hegemonic versus subordinated

masculinity roles as it relates to the media and youth vio-

lence. She states that the youth of the 2000’s era under

came a ‘‘siege mentality’’ and ‘‘Enactments of hegemonic

masculinity became a primary vehicle for solidifying

homosocial relationships… in television shows like Rescue Me (2004–2011) and The Shield (2002–2008)’’ (Linder

2014, p. 35). T.V. shows like these provide a medium to

illustrate the identity crisis of white male adults. This is

important because these crises are based on the question of

one’s masculinity in comparison to perceived societal

norms. Linder then proposes the novel Nineteen Minutes as

the antithesis of such hegemonic works. The novel follows

fictional character Peter Houghton who is continuously and

viciously ‘‘gay-bated’’ to the point of Houghton’s own

question of sexuality. His ambiguous sexuality and refusal

to stand up for himself ‘‘Categorizes him as a boy who

cannot meet the requirements of hegemonic masculinity’’

(Linder 2014, p. 37). Following an episode of rampage

violence, he is further emasculated when his lawyer calls

for a ruling with the effects of battered women’s syndrome

having caused Peter to snap. This same phenomenon can be

seen in the columbine shooters as they were bulled and

queered to a breaking point. Rather than being conveyed in

the media as two depressed and isolated teens, the pair was

dehumanized and constructed to be evil personified. The

narratives do not follow this inclination of dehumanization

in the media because the narratives force the reader to

spend time in the distraught mind of a confused teen. For

the case study in chapter two, Linder brings in Heart of

America to drive her point home. This film shows a reen-

acted version of the brutal raping of a mentally handi-

capped girl in 1989 in New Jersey. When the perpetrator is

caught, rather then being distraught, he is proud because he

believes she wanted it to happen; in other words, he is the

embodiment of hegemonic heterosexual society. The film

J Youth Adolescence (2016) 45:1048–1052 1049


then cuts to the younger brother of the rapist harassing

Daniel, the main character, and his friend who embody

subordinated masculinity with in America. From the start,

it is clear that the rapist’s family is the oppressing hand of

America’s hetronormative society. As the film comes to a

close with Daniel’s rampage violence, he is seen blaming

the victims for his actions as he kills them. This blame is in

direct connection to the Columbine massacre where the

teens were pushed past the point of victimization and into

the dangerous territory of subordinated masculinity. This

film draws a connection between, ‘‘Youth actions, white-

ness as American identity, hegemonic masculinity, and

certain forms of violence’’ (Linder 2014, p. 54). These

forms of violence further Linder’s argument by linking

white subordinated masculinity with rampage violence.

This is not all that Heart of America had to offer, as an

accomplice to Daniel an emotionally distraught female also

joins the rampage. While there has not been a female

perpetrator of rampage violence in America, Linder uses

her character as a jumping point into the next chapter.

An emasculated male and a distraught female have more

then a few similarities when it came to Heart of America.

Dara, Daniel’s accomplice, uses his action to enact revenge

of her own on her ex-lover and a teacher. Much like Daniel,

Dara is using her actions to empower herself, with the only

difference being that Daniel has succumbed to his subor-

dinated masculinity. In the Third chapter, Linder discusses

the introduction of Females in the rampage shooter genre.

Linder begins by discussing the female role in the patri-

archy, as well as how female sexuality and pregnancy is a

large part of the female shooters’ identity. For example,

Dara’s ex-lover was a target because he was using her for

his sexual needs while carrying out a relationship with his

virgin girlfriend. Linder (2014, p. 61) states that these

female shooters are shown in three aspects, ‘‘Killer as

victim, victim as suspect, and killer as sexual deviant.’’

Dara can be cast into two of these molds, killer as victim

and killer as sexual deviant. In the narrative, the ex-lover’s

girl girlfriend symbolizes the virginal epitome of how

females should act in America. This dichotomy of virgin

versus deviant disparages the female right to choice over

their sexuality and leads to Dara’s vilification. Next Dara is

victimized for her role as being her ex-lover’s secondary

women. This humanizes her actions and causes the reader

to feel apathy for her situation. As for an example of victim

as suspect, Linder turns to The Life Before Her Eyes, which

is about a queered teen girl named Alicia. Her suspicion

stems from her choice of ‘‘freak’’ apparel, which creates a

mystery as to if she is indeed was a player in her friends

rampage. Linder (2014, p. 67) then goes on to argue that

these narratives ‘‘situate violent female youths in second-

class citizenship roles because of… gender stereotyping.’’ This suggests that women in mainstream media can no

longer be in control of their actions because the power and

agency of those actions is given to the female’s abuser.

Much like Dara’s role in Heart of America, Josie, the

estranged accomplice in Nineteen Minutes, is used in

chapter 3’s case report to embody the point she is trying to

make. While the book mainly focuses on Peter’s struggle

with the crippling bullying he suffered, it is later revealed

that his old childhood friend Josie accompanied him on his

quest for death. Much like Dara, Josie was driven to kill by

her love life and feelings of inadequacy in her social

standing; because of her role in the popular crowd, she was

forced to be one of the bullies in order to fit in. Josie is put

in further strain when she becomes pregnant with her

boyfriend’s baby. While she does not want to keep the

child, Matt sees it as a blessing and wants her to have the

child. This pregnancy is shown as teenage sexual deviation

and Matt’s desire to keep the baby embodies societies need

to keep her down. While Peter’s involvement threatens the

masculine hegemony of American society, Josie’s on the

other hand is much more frightening. Linder (2014, p. 80)

brings the point that, ‘‘Josie’s participation in the shooting

raises the question of whether all teenagers have the

potential to be violent.’’ This does more than question a

teen’s safety in our society; the fact that she was a popular

and successful teenage female crushes the gender norms of

female victimization. In this case, Josie is not portrayed as

victim as suspect because she fits the popular and hege-

monic structure of high school femininity. Instead she is

shown through her being a killer who is a sexual deviant

for her pregnancy and as a killer who is a victim for her

forced role in Peter’s bullying. This victimization that turns

to killing in ‘‘self-defense’’ is viewed differently within our

society; it is deemed as more acceptable then Peter’s

actions because of the dominant societal views of females

in literature. The question then turns to who creates this

mold of gender and youth identity within our society?

The fourth chapter takes a step back from the characters

and instead looks at the authors and directors leading the

creation of the characters involved. Linder argues that the

adult authors of juvenile rampage narratives provide a

fictitious representation of young adults’ lives. Much like

the adults portrayed in Elephant, adults in real society are

disconnected from the youth of today because their time of

growth and development has passed. Linder’s first problem

with depictions of young adults in the media is the setting

in which youth are placed into. Instead of portraying

children as the individual they are, they are portrayed in

whatever stereotype that best fits the juvenile. As stated

earlier, Alicia, of The Life Before Her Eyes, is shown as an

outsider solely because of her wardrobe. Next, Linder

discusses young adults in the narratives Monday Redux,

Shooter, and Hate List where the juvenile protagonists are

underrepresented and overpowered by the influence put

1050 J Youth Adolescence (2016) 45:1048–1052


forth by the administration in charge. The administration in

these books handles the situations in ways to ensure that

they had plausible deniability in the liability of their in-

action regarding killings on school grounds. Alternatively,

Linder also brings up the book After, which takes place in a

dystopian reality and discusses the measures in which a

school will go to ensure safety of the its students. Fol-

lowing a school shooting some 50 miles away, a new

school administration places many restrictions on the stu-

dents in the name of safety. As an after effect of these new

rules, the life and soul of American students is sucked out

leaving a husk of wasted American youth. The book uses

real world examples, like placing metal detectors in the

entrances of the school and integrating total security, to

show the reader the reality that we are not far from this

world. Such measures, while shown as far-reaching and

unthinkable in the book, in reality are actually taking place

in some schools in the name of safety. In addition to this

dystopian vision, Linder adds on the measures in Hate List.

The school administration, following a shooting, constructs

its own version of events to prevent liability. Instead,

children embody the spirit of America by using democracy

and hard work to overcome the falsehoods that the school

projects. Finally, for this chapter’s case report, Linder

lightens the mood with a sense of optimism stemming from

Just Another Hero. This book shows an urban school of

students and faculty working together to stop and protect a

mentally ill juvenile from committing rampage violence.

This breaks the hegemonic views depicting urban youth as

a culture of violence. Instead of dehumanizing and

destroying the livelihood of this student, his peers and

faculty diffuse the situation and get the boy the help he

needed. Linder uses this book to end the chapter to

demonstrate the variation of symbolic meaning behind

each action taken by shooters and their peers alike. This

variation in meaning is due to adult authors projecting their

own values behind the actions of juveniles in these situa-

tions. This has grave significance, now adults have claimed

not only legal and administrative rights over the juveniles;

they’ve now taken the liberty of creating the youth identity

for them. This creation of youth identity by anyone other

then youth’s themselves will force those outside of the

stereotypes into isolation. The isolation of youth as pre-

sented in narratives is almost always the driving force

behind rampage violence and can be changed with the

reallocation of power to the American juveniles. This sei-

zure of power from the juveniles is not just in the narra-

tives; the real world application can show full-fledged

control by the adults and government.

In the concluding chapter, Linder ties the problems of

rampage violence narratives into the real world problems

that are occurring in the education system. Linder starts by

discussing the Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage (AOUM)

policy that has devalued youth across America. She argues

that this directive forces countless LGBTQ, pregnant, and

even sexually ambiguous youth into isolation and, in the

case of these narratives, into violence. This AOUM pro-

gram enforces one adult cookie-cutter directive over all

youth. Such directives are empowering the patriarchal and

hegemonic heteronormative society and ‘‘[Vilifying]

characters with suspected gay identities in order to reify

heteronormativity’’ (Linder 2014, p. 107). Through this

attempt to keep American youth pure, the government has

decided to ignore the large percentage of youth in America.

This isolates those outside of the norm and pushes them

into social strain. These groups of children are then clas-

sified as deviant and left without a voice. Deprived of the

legal voice to change the hegemonic and out dated AOUM

policy, they are left ‘‘In the position of second-class citi-

zens’’ (Linder 2014, p. 113). Much like the youth portrayed

in these narratives, the rules forced on them are adult

constructed and enforced creating a gap between Amer-

ica’s adults and youth. This puts current and future juve-

niles and adults in jeopardy of violence from stress induced

mental illness. With the simple empowerment of our

nation’s youth to get their voices heard, they might have a

chance to break the casts set by adults. Linder ends by

stating that further study and proof must be researched and

presented to attack the hegemony on more then one front.

In conclusion, Rampage Violence Narratives, by

Kathryn Linder, provides an outside look into the narra-

tives, media, and effects of youth portrayal in rampage

violence narratives. Linder successfully accomplishes her

argument by providing many different narratives that

enforce hegemonic masculinity, alienation of queer male

and female juveniles, and the overall misconstruction of

juveniles in literature. As a result, it provides important

insights for researcher in this area, particularly those who

examine discrimination’s role in fostering violence (Gar-

nett et al. 2014; Monahan et al. 2014) and ways to reduce

the negative effects of victimization (Strøm et al. 2014) and

foster youth development (Godfrey and Grayman 2014).

But, she does much more. With the base of the Columbine

High School massacre, Linder is able to successfully con-

nect all of the narratives in this book to similarities with the

real and original rampage shooters in 1999. Unfortunately,

the media and society choose to continue to isolate urban

communities for the unfortunate gang violence, as well as

suburban/rural youth for not fitting the stereotypes set

forth. Together, mental illness and gang violence in the

youth population are two of the biggest problems today.

Linder effectively points out that, instead of helping, the

government has tried to create an imperfect model of what

youth identity should be. Overall, this book is extremely

well written in its argument and well versed in the

misunderstanding between different communities and the

J Youth Adolescence (2016) 45:1048–1052 1051


government. The application of such a book could end up

being part of efforts to end the state’s hold over conformist

education and allow for the incorporation of everyone into

a new American hegemonic society.

Conflicts of interest The author reports none.


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Godfrey, E. B., & Grayman, J. K. (2014). Teaching citizens: The role

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1052 J Youth Adolescence (2016) 45:1048–1052


Journal of Youth & Adolescence is a copyright of Springer, 2016. All Rights Reserved.

  • Kathryn Linder: Rampage Violence Narratives: What Fictional Accounts of School Shootings Say About the Future of America’s Youth
    • Plymouth, Lexington, 2014,168 pp, ISBN: 978-0739187500
    • References

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