I found some of the themes in A Visit From the Goon Squad to be a bit... problematic. Most notably, both the tone and message of "You (Plural)" seemed quite disturbing.
This particular story was guilty of using one of my least favorite tropes: The Absolution of Fragility trope. I define this trope as "Making the audience sympathetic towards a morally corrupt character, who may have been seen as a villain in the past, by portraying them as fragile, weak, old, misfortunate, or depressed, and thereby absolving them of any past crimes."
When it comes to literary analysis, I think it's important to approach things with a certain level of detachment. In this instance, I failed to do so. I hated Lou. I hated every single mention of him and everything he represented. It would take far too long to explain why, so I won't. Hopefully, anyone reading the book will have an understanding that he is a person who does horrible things and sees nothing wrong with those horrible things, and that's what's important.
Which is why I was so appalled when several different people, after reading "You (Plural)" (a story portraying Lou as old, fragile, lonely, depressed, even a little regretful), said that they had started to actually like him, or had realized that maybe he wasn't so awful, given this "intriguing new perspective" of his character.
Let's just get this out there: we ALL grow old. We ALL become fragile and weak and pathetic. Many of us grow to have regrets and crippling nostalgia. Generous people, cruel people, philanthropists and serial murders alike - we all eventually descend into a sad state that makes us seem innocent and worthy of sympathy. This doesn't actually mean that we are deserving of sympathy, or that we are actually innocent. It definitely doesn't mean that all of the horrible things we've done just suddenly disappear.
In order to truly dig deep into the disgusting murky depths of this trope, we really have to examine the concepts of good and bad themselves. Are things inherently good, or inherently bad? I think absolutely not. However, things can be separated into the more relative categories of "selfish" and "selfless." Actions are usually one of the two, and can occasionally be a mixture of both. People, I've found, are rarely exclusively one or the other - Lou was definitely one of the rare cases that fell squarely on the "selfish" end of the spectrum. Some people are only out for themselves.
The reason this trope is problematic is, strangely enough, found within one of the later stories of the book: "Selling the General" (my personal favorite). In this story, we yet again see the absolution trope in a completely different light: a genocidal despot being humanized through images that literally make people forget about his crimes.
When we encounter the AOF trope, it's important to realize how real and unhealthy it is. It's easy, perhaps, to become sympathetic towards a character who just abused his children and had sex with a teenager when he's now a sad, helpless old man, because those characters aren't real. They don't exist any farther than we take them. But what about when this happens in real life - which it does? What are we doing to all the people this person has hurt when we absolve them of every wrongdoing because we give them sympathy we don't deserve? We must not allow ourselves to invalidate the damage done to the victim's by giving the perpetrator of the crimes a false innocence. We must not let the images color the reality.