I love watching television, a lot. As a first year student, I probably spend more time than I actually should watching it. It’s my break from thinking, and after an hour and a half on Machiavelli, I’d like to not think about anything anymore, if possible. So, naturally, I come home after class on a Monday, turn on my TV to watch the newest episode of How I Met Your Mother and I find myself disappointed after watching it. Last year I stopped watching Glee for the same reason.
Now, some of you must be thinking, how could you be disappointed with these magnificent shows? Well, Sputnik readers, I’m here to tell you that as someone who has dealt with anxiety and depression, I’m pretty upset about the way these TV shows have portrayed suicide. How I Met Your Mother offended me not just by throwing around the word suicide like it’s condoms during a safe sex convention, but by having episodes where someone commits, or is about to commit, suicide portrayed as a joke. Glee is, in my mind, probably the worst offender because not only do they also joke about and discuss suicide inappropriately, they also had a character attempt suicide in an episode. I literally had to watch Dave Karofsky (played by Max Adler) almost kill himself. Not only did they not deal with it appropriately, there was no trigger warning or note at the end discussing where people could get help.
Although Adler’s portrayal was deeply moving, Glee should have followed the lead of Degrassi. In 1991, Degrassi High had a character commit suicide, and after the episode they had the actor discuss resources for people who are feeling suicidal. More recently, another Degrassi character committed suicide and they had a special episode afterwards to discuss the character, resources, and how to help a suicidal friend. A topic as serious as suicide should not be taken lightly or joked about, and I was disappointed in Glee because they underestimated the power their show carries and the potential positive influence and educational opportunity they missed.
Perhaps I am a little too sensitive on the topic, having experienced depression and known people who have been suicidal, but I think these shows could have done it more respectfully and tastefully. Don’t get me wrong, talking about suicide is very important because studies done by many mental health institutions, including The Crisis Centre, have shown talking about suicide has not made it worse, but it makes people feel better. It opens up the door for people to discuss how they’re feeling and hopefully get help they need. What bothers me is the misrepresentation of suicide and, even worse, the jokes about it. That doesn’t open up the conversation, it creates more barriers by diminishing people’s experiences and emotions, trying to get a laugh from them. If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal or just needs to talk, please don’t hesitate to use the resources our school and community provides. Maybe next time before you laugh at or make a joke out of suicide, think twice.
4 thoughts on “The dangerous depiction of suicide on TV”
Fantastic Article Hannah Brunsdon, when you pointed out the responsibilities of Prime time Networks to be more aware and socially responsible. This article really hit home and made me realize how badly suicide has been portrayed. Thank you for your wonderful article!
Good for you Hannah – well said.
omg, this is so true Hannah! and i think its deplorable how many tv shows depict young people trying to kill themselves than their friends just laugh at it like its a joke! its just so wrong and hurtful and insensitive o those have tried to kill themselves or who have friend that have tried, but this is an awesome article! keep up the amazing work!
I’m so glad you wrote this. My mother, sister, and ex boyfriend committed suicide and I recently decided to take tv out of our house completely. The last straw for me was a suicide joke that was said on the Simpsons. On the Simpsons really? Working through suicide trauma is different from other trauma. Suicide is taboo in our culture. Therefore talking about it makes people very uneasy. Some people I have opened up to about that part of my history have stopped talking to me all together because they are so uncomfortable by the subject matter. Not being about to talk about it is a struggle but turning on the tv and having someone make light of your trauma is too much. Suicide jokes are in even PG movies. I can’t got to the movies because I don’t want to be caught off guard by a horrible joke and I have a hard time when I’m visiting a friend and they have the tv on a suicide joke comes on. I don’t like telling people to turn off their favorite song or tv program. Having a strong sense of community is important. I have learned it’s best to discuss suicide trauma with people who have walked the same path. Giving up tv was hard but I am actually grateful I have switched to books. I get a lot more useful information from reading anyway. Still it would still be nice to have to luxury of not being effected by the suicide of a loved one. Thank you so mcuh for writing this and helping me feel like I’m not the only one in the fight!