It’s probably safe to say that there’s something REALLY wrong with me, because I really liked this ad campaign. It caused a huge controversy because, despite what you might gather from typical Tumblr posts, a lot of people have a problem with depictions of suicide even if they’re not meant to be taken seriously.
Now, granted, I like it from an artistic standpoint, since the illustrations are well done and I rather like the ‘let’s see who can slip the most fucked up stuff past the censors’ genre of cartooning that spawned things like Ren and Stimpy, Invader Zim, and more recently, Ugly Americans. However, I can see where a lot of people might be offended by an image of a creature slitting it’s wrists and gobbling down pills while strapped to a rocket hurtling towards the ground.
Or shooting himself in the head after presumably drinking a bottle of poison, moments before hanging himself just to be sure.
Or setting himself on fire in order to detonate a stick of explosives, then melting the evidence with a bucket full of acid.
I also think a lot of people need to lighten up a bit and stop taking everything so seriously.
However, I’ve also most likely earned myself my own special place Hell (probably as a Human Resources consultant, Ugly Americans style) for my sense of humor alone.
Having been a fan of shows like Ugly Americans, Rocco’s Modern Life (though tame compared to the other shows in this list, it had some epically raunchy moments,) Ren and Stimpy, Happy Tree Friends, and Invader Zim, very little offends or phases me in my adult life when it comes to raunch and violence. This was further cemented by my liking of over-the-top gore in video games, such as the God of War series and Borderlands. On the other hand, I could easily defend any of the shows or games I’ve named here from an artistic standpoint; art is meant to make you think.
If something shocks you, sit and think about why it shocks you. Think about the message the artist was conveying. It’s rare for art to have truly deviant purposes; the artist was trying to say something, and it’s usually a little more complex than ‘I want to offend someone for no good reason.’ You shouldn’t condemn it just because you don’t like what they have to say, because the same principle allows you the right to express the fact that you don’t like it. Obviously there is a fine line between shocking and depraved (hand-drawn child pornography is still child pornography) but there are very few things that clearly cross that line. In the right context almost anything can be funny, insightful, or artistic, assuming the artist had a purpose in creating it.
Although I don’t necessarily approve of being a shock jock just for ratings, good writing and an honest-to-God purpose behind ‘shocking’ art will always justify it’s existence. Ugly Americans is a damn funny show, despite being one of the most crude, offensive, and ridiculous things I’ve seen in my life. Rocco’s Modern Life was clever and subtle with it’s sexual innuendos. Invader Zim was beautifully animated but shockingly violent considering it’s target viewer’s age group (7 year old kids, not the 13-18 year old teens who made the show the cult classic it is today.) God of War allows you to rip the head off of a man and use it as your own personal flashlight, but when you’re ripping his head off, it’s all anatomically correct. That, and it’s not violence without purpose; God of War has a complex, well-written, brilliantly acted, beautifully animated, extensively researched, emotionally powerful storyline that is enhanced by the violence. Kratos is a brutal guy. The fact that you’re making a minotaur deep throat your blades until he drowns in his own blood or that you’re ripping a cyclop’s eye out of it’s socket after stabbing him in the leg, punching him in the nuts, and climbing onto his shoulders using your blades like a homicidal Spiderman is just something that Kratos would be expected to do. To make the games less violent would be untrue to the character they’ve created.
I’m drifting a bit here, but that’s mostly because I firmly believe that I have just as much of a right to laugh at things that most people find offensive as the artist has to create it, and as other people have to find it offensive. The medium is unimportant to me. Back on topic; the ads are probably in bad taste, and maybe not quite the angle a soda company should be taking for an ad campaign, but they’re still nice pieces of art. I also think that the controversy that followed was infinitely more tied to how uncomfortable people are with dealing with the topic of suicide than it was tied to people being fundamentally offended by the content.
Which brings me to the point I’ve been laboriously trying to make in the most round-about way possible; people don’t know how to handle suicide. When someone they’re close to attempts suicide, they don’t know if they should act normally, or be extra careful so they don’t hurt the person’s feelings.
Considering I was released from a three day 5150 (psychiatric hold) stay in a hospital on Friday, this topic has been on my mind recently. I was put on that hold because I was brought to the hospital with alcohol poisoning, and my friend kindly pointed out the fact that I was a self-injurer, and that I had been having suicidal thoughts.
Let me make something clear; I did not try to kill myself. I did, however, actively make the decision to not stop myself from dying. Suicide by wishful thinking, I suppose. It would be more correct that I lost my will to live.
I won’t go into much detail about my stay in the psych ward, mostly because it’s rather boring and I don’t feel like talking about it at the moment (maybe in a later post.) I’m on anti-depressants now, and I’m doing better, but people’s reactions to me have, in some cases, been a little condescending, for lack of a better word.
As I said before, people are truly unnerved by the idea of someone they know committing suicide, and that’s understandable, but I can’t help but feel like some people are walking on eggshells not because they want to ensure I don’t hurt myself, but because they don’t want to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’ve had to reassure three different people so far that even if it was a genuine suicide attempt, it wasn’t their fault. Or if they did do something to contribute to my depression, it wasn’t even close to being entirely their fault. Were some of them mean to me? Yes. Did some of their actions make me depressed or upset? Absolutely. But no one person can be held responsible for even a 10th of how fucked up I am except me.
Having everyone around me walking on eggshells and being super nice to me while also making it abundantly clear that they’re afraid of what I’ll do to myself is just making me feel like more of a freak than I did before. Or worse, some people are outright avoiding talking to me because they’re afraid it will come up as a topic of conversation. All I want is to be treated like a normal person. Don’t be afraid to talk to me like an adult. Don’t be afraid to joke about what happened. In fact, please do; it makes it less scary for everyone involved. It’s not trivializing it; it’s lightening the mood a bit.
Singling me out and treating me differently is not going to make me feel better about myself. It’s just compounding the problem I had in the first place; I feel like I’m too different to function in society. I feel really alone a lot of the time, and acting like I’m going to snap at any second isn’t putting me at ease. It makes me feel like I’m a wild animal that you’re afraid will eat your face the second you stop being nice to it and giving it treats.
Some people are unnerved by the fact that I like art like this ad campaign, or that I love listening to Evanescence when I’m upset. Some friends have gone as far as to tell me to stop doing these things, because they think that the depressing art, music, literature, etc. will make me worse. That’s not the case. I like this ad campaign because it’s good art, and because I relate to the creature’s emotions in a small yet significant way. It’s presenting a serious topic in a humorous fashion, which makes me feel better about relating to it. By listening to Evanescence, I relate to the lyrics and the emotions behind the lyrics, and I feel better because there is something other than my own words and art that can express how I’m feeling. In a way, both these things make me feel less alone in the struggle, even if I’m relating in a somewhat abstract way to complete stranger’s thoughts and emotions. Sometimes I feel like my best friends are Lady Gaga and Amy Lee, because I relate to their music on such a deeply emotional level that I feel like they would understand me if I told them my story.
It’s lame, I know, but it makes me feel better.
Art reflects society. If you have a problem with any particular work of art, whether it be an illustration, a song, a book, a TV show or a film, maybe you should focus your attention on why the message bothers you instead of simply the fact that it does bother you. Instead of getting offended at ads like the ones above and reacting with venom towards the artist, maybe learn something about yourself. Maybe think about the fact that you’re upset about the idea of suicide. Maybe you should do something to help prevent suicide, if it bothers you that profoundly. Volunteer for the Suicide Hotline, perhaps.
People are quick to blame a lot of teenage problems on the media that teenagers consume, but are less quick to do anything about the fact that teenagers who choose depressing media do so because they relate to it. Cutters don’t cut themselves because The Used told them to in their song lyrics; they listen to The Used because they are cutters and they relate to the lyrics. No one is going to commit suicide over a Pepsi advertisement, so don’t attack it like it’s putting people’s lives in danger. As they say in psychology and medicine; you can treat the symptoms, but you won’t get better until you treat the disease.
So lighten up, seriously. If one more person offers me an awkward hug and talks to me like I’m an emotionally unstable eight year old who is wielding a kitchen knife, I’m going to scream. Please treat me like a normal person. It was the whole not feeling normal thing that got me in this mess in the first place.
This turned out to be a much longer post than I expected, but it’s a point that has to be made. Please stop dancing around the subject, guys. If what I did upset you or scared you, say so. Don’t beat around the bush telling me how much you care and all that. If you must harp on and on about how much you care about me (which is a little humorous considering how many of you turned a blind eye to everything I’ve been doing for the past year, or worse, turned your backs on me) don’t tell me that you love me, tell me how I made you feel and why you love me. ‘I love you’ is such an empty phrase to me that you might as well be saying ‘your eyes are blue’ or ‘grass is green’ or ‘water is wet.’ Words are empty without conviction and evidence. ‘I love you’ is a phrase that I just don’t even see the point in using anymore since it’s become so trivial in my life. It’s thrown around so much it means nothing.
You know what meant something to me? When my best friend (who knows who she is and is likely going to read this) hugged me and said ‘I was really scared.’ That was a real reaction. Not this whole, ‘I love youuuuuu’ followed by an awkward hug and an insincere ‘how are you?’ when they sure as hell don’t want an honest answer.
I already feel like my struggles and efforts to get better are going to be completely eclipsed by certain other things going on in my social circle, and likely largely ignored, forgotten, or at least placed pretty far down on the collective list of priorities. I don’t need to also feel like people are feigning interest just long enough to ensure I’m not going to personally thank them in my suicide note.
Granted, a lot of this is just pent up bitterness over the fact that I’ve done such a good job of hiding how fucked up I’ve become from everyone and I can’t honestly blame them for not noticing when I did everything I could to prevent them from doing just that. On the other hand, it got pretty blatantly obvious that something should have been done at least six months ago. Or two years ago. People are afraid to confront this type of thing, though. Or worse, they think they can handle it themselves.
So, to bring what is quickly becoming an academically long essay to a close, I’d like to say that I’m okay, relatively speaking, and kind of glad I didn’t die, but I’m far from being a recovered, or in some cases functional, and stable human being. Granted, I hold up a lot better than a lot of people with my problems, but that might make me worse than most people. I don’t slur when I’m drunk. I don’t cry when I’m upset. I wear long pants and long sleeves year round to set precedence so people don’t become suspicious when I’m wearing a long-sleeved shirt in the middle of summer. I am a very, very good liar. I am extremely lucky that I lost that particular trait some time in the last six months, or I probably would have ended up accidentally killing myself and no one would have any idea it had gotten that bad. I don’t like being outed, and I definitely don’t like how I’m being treated, but at least I’m not in danger anymore, and at least I’m getting help.
And it won’t be long before I can definitively determine who my real friends are.