Last week I wrote about the controversial TV show 13 Reasons Why, and addressed charges that it possibly “encourages” young people to commit suicide; that taking one’s life is somehow made “glamorous” on the program. And I really cautioned against going on a witch-hunt against one aspect of contemporary pop-culture like that, to attribute this whole “cause and effect” thing.
But you know now, to be quite honest, I’m starting to pick up a weird energy in the air. It’s not just 13 Reasons Why. It’s the bizarre new details about the Aaron Hernandez suicide, the recent suicide of Miracle star Michael Mantenuto, and even this new Father John Misty music video featuring a crucified Macaulay Culkin as Kurt Cobain. And so I feel I need to briefly speak to this.
First, the Hernandez suicide on April 16. It now comes out that before he hung himself in his prison cell, former pro-football star Hernandez wrote the word “Illuminati” and drew a eye-on-the-pyramid symbol on the wall in his own blood.
Well, holy shit. This is fucking Manson-level, Exorcist-level, DaVinci Code-level, weird weird shit.
It doesn’t matter if you believe in that conspiracy stuff or not. The fact that he felt driven to do this—where did that come from? That is some intense shit. That is the shit you leave when you want to make a big statement before you die.
Then there is Mantenuto’s suicide on April 27, shooting himself in his car. The actor had left Hollywood for the U.S. Army in 2010, and apparently was involved with Operation Inherent Resolve, which targeted ISIS in Iraq and Syria. It is said that Sgt. Mantenuto—a decorated Green Beret—possibly “saw something” over there that had factored into his decision to take his own life. It’s possible he had PTSD. But we don’t know for sure. All we know is, he’s dead from a gunshot wound to the head.
Now we have this Father John Misty video “Total Entertainment Forever,” which focuses on Kurt Cobain— this video that came out the same day as the Mantenuto suicide news. Out of all the healthy decisions former child star Culkin could make in terms of his life, I don’t know if portraying Cobain—who committed suicide by a gunshot wound to the head, same as Mantenuto—is one of them.
Culkin has had his own troubles over the years, probably the most prominent being not specifically a “trouble” but a single photograph of him looking gaunt and like 50 years old. And now I’m doing research on Culkin, and it turns out he seems to be a little bit obsessed with Cobain—getting paintings of him made, dressing like him with no explanation for reporters, just strange stuff.
And so if we go back to 13 Reasons Why—which debuted on March 31st—we have the character Alex, who is consciously styled as a tribute to Cobain. The series ends with the news that Alex is in critical condition with a gunshot wound to the head in a possible suicide.
It all feels a little creepy to me. I’m not saying it’s all related. It’s just a little, I dunno…
Then there are recent statistics worldwide that suggest suicide, in general, is on the rise. And statistically, males are more likely to commit suicide than females.
We look at things like sports culture, military culture, contemporary culture in general, and hear about the concept of “toxic masculinity.” And that concept is often presented as a “reason” for misogyny, and so on—this concept as this thing that is “done” to or perpetrated on other people (often females).
But—if men die by suicide 3.5 times more than women, then there is something clearly going on that is making males visit the ultimate form of violence against themselves. And is that being explored enough in our society? 13 Reasons Why gives a female face to suicide—and suicide rates are actually up for adolescent girls—but I think there is not enough attention paid to male suicide.
And I think these types of stories will, unfortunately, continue.