Tag Archives: semiotics

Suicide Isn’t Pretty, Much Less an Appropriate Marketing Strategy

[Trigger warning for discussion of suicidality]

The porn company named “suicide girls” puts me in a fit of nausea every time I hear it. ¬†And they’re not the only trigger: tumblr is rife with photos of thin, fragile-looking women lying on train tracks; Hot Topic sells fingerless “cutter” gloves. Judging by what you’re liable to be sold (be it products or beauty standards), it almost seems like the last thing you would expect suicide to entail is a removal from society.

Tragically, one of the biggest tip-offs that you are dealing with a marginalized minority is when you realize that the minority’s rates of suicide are disproportionately high. It’s a terrifying, terrifying thing to realize that, for some people, this world is a very inhospitable place. This whole re-fashioning of suicide-related imagery as desirable is really just a way for the immature to divorce the possibility of suicide from its ramifications. Death is cute now! We don’t even have to worry about our own feelings and those of our peers! Nothing bad can happen because even the word used to describe something bad that could happen is now just an unoriginal artistic statement!!

When I volunteered for a suicide hotline, we used to get a couple prank calls every month. They were always from a group of teenagers, and they usually started off with some ridiculous, obviously false story like “everybody hates me because I’m an evil racist.” And, honestly? I don’t think the prank callers are evil people who are deliberately tying up phone lines that would be better used communicating with people in crisis. I think the problem is that those teenagers just weren’t ready to understand that suicide is an all-too-common and all-too-immediate problem for kids much like themselves. (Possibly kids exactly like themselves; who’s to say that they weren’t so threatened by the idea of suicide in part because they found it a little appealing?)

Of course, this juvenile attitude towards suicide makes it all that much harder for suicidal people to get the help they need. We–as a culture–need to replace our discomfort and eagerness to ignore the issue with determination to confront the societal ills that drive many people to kill themselves. Not because of aphorisms like “suicide is wrong/selfish” but because any living conditions that are capable of convincing a group of people that they’d rather be dead are not acceptable. We need to be able to do better.

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