On Celebrity Suicide

_Let not the friends of these poor melancholics.png

I’ll take this moment to say that I know this topic is difficult to cover and I struggled with this all during the process of writing it. But know that I would never post something without giving in a great deal of thought and I think it’s a narrative worth exploring. I am sorry for those who are affected by topic negatively and my goal is never to cause emotional pain. I’ve been touched by the specter of suicide in my life, I’ve lost someone close to me this way; know that I am not writing this for the sake of a hot take or just because I can. I gave this post time to become what it is. I left it, came back to it and returned to it before deciding it was worth discussing. Once more, I apologize if this post finds you in crisis and I sincerely hope that you find healing and comfort.


June 8th, I got a lot of messages on my phone. It wasn’t because I was paneling, it wasn’t because I was at A-Kon, it wasn’t because I was back in my corner of Texas: it was because one of my idols died. Anthony Bourdain meant the world to me. Even in death, he still does. But I got messages from those I love and that love me asking if I was okay. There’s a bit of a terse statement that suicide is contagious and in so many ways, it is. It’s like a virus, a miasma that lingers in the air and poisons those who are most vulnerable to it.

I wanted to talk about celebrity suicide in an attempt to help me work through some of my own grief.

Celebrities ending their own lives is not new or recent. Unfortunately, many famous people leave us through accidental means like car wrecks and accidental overdoses. But far too many leave us intentionally. And when I say “celebrity” I’m willing to be very open in this definition so this covers anyone who is “famous” and “important”. Bourdain’s death hit especially raw after the recent suicide of Kate Spade.  And the flood of support that comes and then quickly leaves after the suicide of someone famous is almost just as exhausting as the grief that comes with that loss. Suddenly, folks who normally would have much more puritanical views on suicide and mental health are “advocates” only to return to their staunch views once the zeitgeist fades and moves on to another Kardashian storyline. And that’s what makes celebrity death so frustrating. When Chester Bennington died, I was distraught. His music helped me work through some of my own dark demons and knowing that he suffered so much in plain sight was disheartening.

But there is one thing that the recent string of celebrity suicides is that it has brought to light a very ugly aspect of supporting those that are mentally ill: sometimes, the illness is too much. The suicide rate in the U.S. has been steadily ticking up for the last several years and the amount of celebrities that unfortunately take their own lives helps shed a light on the countless others whose death did not make a large ripple in the pool.  It’s one of the reasons 13 Reasons Why is so intoxicating, to people that are not mentally ill, it’s a valid and important part of the conversation. To people who are mentally ill, it’s just another television show that does a damn good job at glorifying suicide which is a dangerous game for anyone who has danced with those thoughts before.

This time seems different, though. This time around seems different. It has seemed different since Robin Williams died. We lost such a funny and bright man. How could he experience any sadness at all? But his death reminded us that oftentimes, it’s the people smiling the most who hurt inside. Bourdain was similar: so many said that he had never seemed happier.

Even writing this post was really difficult and I had to ask more than one person about the ethics of writing about such a thing. It always seems a little egotistical to write about such a subject after someone dies. It’s the main reason there’s an Avicii post deep in my document cloud that will likely never be published: it all just feels like a way to turn tragedy into narcissism. That isn’t my goal, however. I’m a big believer in fighting stigma by confronting the evil (most of the time) note that I was glamorize or glorify the act but I will continue to prop up the people who we have lost. Because each death is a tragic loss. There is a void left behind knowing that Anthony Bourdain will not be able to enchant us with tales of exotic lands. There’s a void left knowing Kate Spade will not design another piece that perfectly encapsulates what it means to be a woman on the go. I am sad knowing Robin Williams won’t make another generation laugh like he did mine and the one before mine and I am heartbroken knowing that Linkin Park will never be the same. That pain is valid and sure, it’s egotistical going through and writing about it but I am hoping that  in talking about it candidly will start a conversation and in my opinion and experience: a conversation can be life-saving. Check on your friends. Check on all your friends. Be there for everyone that you know and love.

Know that I am here for you even though I’m far from a professional.

I’ve seen this sentiment echoed a lot recently so I’ll mimic it here: I won’t share the hotline number. If someone is really in danger, they can find it. It’s not wanting to find it. Instead, I’ll offer again my love, my support and my empathy. I’ll offer my heart.

And to Mr. Bourdain, god, I am so sad that there will be many who don’t get to see your special brand of cynicism, wit and humility.

I’ll end on one of my favorite quotes of all time, it’s one of yours, Mr. Bourdain; and it’s one of the few quotes I’ve ever considered permanently putting on my body.

“Happiness is the absence of cynicism.”

Rest well, Mr. Bourdain and to all the others that have joined you in your rest. The world is a little less awesome because of your collective loss.

The New Normal

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ― Margaret Mead.png

In 2016, a long-brewing storm began to stir to life.

In 2017, that storm broke ground.

In 2018, we are still in the process of coping with this deluge.


That storm that I did my best to analogize is the #MeToo movement and the wave of individuals stating that they have been sexually harassed or assaulted by people in power or celebrities.

Now, I’m not here to talk about the movement itself; I’m here to talk about its effects as someone who has been at the end of more sexual harassment than I like admitting.

Today, we’re here to talk about the storm and what it means for all of us left in its wake.

But there’s one thing that needs to be said immediately before we can go any further. 

Sexual harassment isn’t new.

This is not something that started last year, 10 years ago, or even 100 years ago. For as long as there has been the patriarchy, there has been forms of harassment. There are old rituals that were for “fertility” that now would essentially just be bride-kidnapping. Look at Lupercalia. Men in wolf skins run round and whip each other and women for the sake of fertility. Well, if a man in a wolf skin came anywhere near me now, despite me being a Classics student, I would absolutely call the police.

And as societies change, our attitudes on courting rituals changed. There is not a universal definition of rape and while many places agree loosely on what consent, there are always a few that seem to have less strict definitions on the act. Even though, universally, most understand the difference between “No” and “Yes”. 

Let’s start with what many will agree was the canary in the coal mine for all of this: Bill Cosby. Cosby was America’s black dad. He was non-threatening, intelligent and funny in a family sort of way. He seemed wholesome. He seemed like a good person.  He seemed non-threatening. We were all very wrong. Women recently began to claim that Cosby drugged and assaulted them. But many did not believe these women, there are still people that don’t believe these women despite Cosby being on trial now for his crimes. How could America’s chill black dad be a monster? Turns out, he could be a monster pretty easily and now most who read the news regularly enough know that he’s a monster and don’t question such a fast. And now we are left with this hollow shell of a reminder that someone once beloved is now nothing short of a villain.

Because let’s not mince words, one man’s flattery is another woman’s sexual harassment and that brings us back to #MeToo and the continued predation that directors, writers and producers have used to manipulate and control their actors both male and female. The stories are tragic, heartbreaking and exhausting and all of them are believable.

So what do we do now that this is our new normal?

I’d like to present an example near and dear to my heart: Quentin Tarantino.

Tarantino is…eccentric and he’s actually one of my favorite directors of all time and the creator of some of the finest films this generation has seen in my humble opinion. In a scene in Inglorious Basterds he is shown choking one of his actresses with his own bare hands because he was the only one who could do it just right. He famously berated and endangered Uma Thurman during the filming of both Kill Bill movies (some of my favorite films of all time). And even though we knew that he was a tough director and had less than ideal interactions with actresses: he was an artist. Hell, in a past life I praised him for that scene in Inglorious Basterds. It takes vision to realize that only your hands look good choking the life out of an actress.

But after Uma Thurman came out and provided a much needed humanizing voice about the actual horror that happened behind the camera. Suddenly, many of these scenes that were once praised are now tainted under a new darker lens.

And honestly, that can be said about many directors. Stanley Kubrick terrorized more than one actress during the filming of his excellent filmography. Alfred Hitchcock terrorized several of his actresses while he was making moves that would change cinema forever. But in their day, and in books, articles and interviews: that was just what it took to get the scene and they were visionaries for it. And that doesn’t even include all the microaggressions producers and directors have used to get the scene just right.

And 10, 20, 30 or more years ago: that was fine.

It was perfectly acceptable for such behavior.

One problem: it isn’t now.

So where do we go from here?

I’m not being cynical at all by saying it’s exhausting living in a world where suddenly everyone you looked up to is a monster. That is not said to minimize the allegations, they are all very valid, but as we judge older social mores by current views: how will we continue to move forward as lovers of media and hell, just as folks who lover conversation?

I’m not one that often enjoys hearing that the world is too politically correct now. To me, that’s an excuse often used by men who are out of touch and need a convenient line after they’ve said something repugnant.

I’m happy we are now in an era where a woman or man who screams “harassment” is listened to. I’m happy we are now in an era where a woman or man of color can say that they have experienced hardships because of their race. I am thrilled that LGBTQIA folks can candidly discuss the issues they face with great dignity daily.

I’m concerned that we will only continue to look on the actions of the past with harsher scrutiny. But that concern is tempered with hope. I do worry that some more nuanced things are lost in the conversation. I do worry that we may just one day become too politically correct.

But this is where we are now. Daily, more and more people come out against those who are famous and not so famous. Daily, we make steps in the right direction. Sure, sometimes those steps mean we stumble. But every single damn day we move forward so that one day, a little cosplayer will never have to face the harassment I did. We are reaching towards a day that an actress will never be preyed upon for the sake of advancing her career. We are quickly approaching that day.

And I welcome it.