Trigger warning: this post involves a frank discussion of the romanticization of suicide.
Self-harm is not avant-garde. Depression is not mysterious. I know these two statements to be facts, so why do some forms of media want us to believe otherwise? On the one hand, maybe I should be grateful. Grateful that topics such as suicide are even portrayed on television or in movies. Why, then, is the predominant emotion, not gratitude but sheer anger? (Note: This post contains a trigger warning)
Examination of Romanticization of Suicide in Modern Media
This is not the first time I’ve had it out for modern media. I’ve written about toxic masculinity and the inaccuracy of mental illness in film, but this is different. Although each topic is highly personal to me and countless others, the romanticization of suicide hits the closest to home. My family and I have been closely affected by the devastation and heartbreak of a loved one taking their own life. It’s not something I take lightly. I feel an indescribable obligation to try to rid the world of every misconception about suicide. Even so, as a mostly realistic person, I know that’s virtually impossible. What I can do, however, is speak frankly about the media’s romanticization of suicide and how it can do more harm than good.
Please don’t get me wrong; some shows and films do an excellent job depicting the rawness and, for lack of a better word, the realness of the topic. I have praised Euphoria for its accurate depiction of mental illness. I stand firm in this belief but recognize that the show is an epic example of the sometimes unintended reality of romanticization; Euphoria is a production driven by the need for public consumption and appeal. Yes, the scenes of distress are mostly accurate, if not relatable, but the glam, the outfits, and the allure that’s what makes it sexy.
This is no knock on the Euphoria crew; if anything, it’s a pat on the back for accomplishing what so many shows miss the mark on: How can we talk about real topics and issues facing our audience while remaining chic, appealing, and profitable? The answer is simple, in 2022, after living through a pandemic and other life-altering realities, what we really want is honesty and transparency. I believe the romanticization of suicide insults our resilience as a society and as individuals. In my opinion, it downplays very real and perilous complexities while simultaneously stripping away their urgency. My hope for the future is to continue seeing mental health realities displayed in the media with an added emphasis on authenticity.
If you feel that you may hurt yourself or someone else, call 9-1-1 immediately.
For more information on suicide, see our suicide information, resources, and support section. For additional mental health help, please see our mental health hotline numbers and referral information section.