CHOOSE YOUR WORDS CAREFULLY
AMBER LOVE 15-DEC-2014 I’m certainly no psychologist nor market researcher. In 2014, I saw some calls for people to start including #TriggerWarnings (#TW or #trigger) when promoting books or blog posts or even links to news stories. I also saw that countered with arguments against the practice of trigger warnings by feminists in academia who honestly think students will use it as an excuse to skip reading an assigned book or skip class. Maybe they are feminists who are afraid trigger warnings will decrease sales of their product or products they represent. I don’t see how putting a trigger warning on content is any different than the MPAA film ratings, the video game industry’s ratings, or companies that issue an age range appropriate for a toy. It’s about putting information directly up front on a product so people have choice.
The reason that I addressed sexual assault first is because it has an advantage in protecting people by the sheer awfulness of the subject matter. This is not true of the word SUICIDE. Here’s a word that writers, comic creators, military leaders, and marketers have taken and tried to make it sound brave or courageous.
Those words are not the same in meaning.
This is not in any way about judgment. As a suicide survivor, my baggage is not the issue. This is not about arguing with assholes like Henry Rollins who don’t understand what it feels like – or people like him who say suicide is a cowardly act. It’s about the opposite argument where it’s seen as something noble. The Kamikaze and suicide bombers seem to be the root cause of equating suicide to courage in this backwards way.
WHAT’S COURAGEOUS IS SURVIVING.
Putting down the bottle of pills, the razor, the gun or getting off that ledge, is where the courage lies. The courage does not lie in wanting to do it. It lies in knowing that the feeling ebbs and flows and that feeling needs another chance to ebb again.
DC Comic book creators came out with a team of badass mercenaries that they called the Suicide Squad back in 1959 but it’s more commonly accepted that the later 1987 version by John Ostrander is the true team. Then, as DC Comics tends to do, they inserted stories at a later time which basically wedged teams together into the past continuity. The retconned team consists of supervillains hired by the United States to pay penance. They are sent on do-good missions by Amanda “the Wall” Waller. The Hollywood film version will change the team roster, no doubt, but includes Harley Quinn and Deadshot adding the Joker because he’s one of the Warner Brother/DC’s biggest money makers next to Batman and Superman.
Because the comic book squadron is a spandex clad version of a military team, they took on the military usage equating suicide with crazy people who throw themselves into missions where they might not come back.
ALL WORDS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL
Imagine now, if the word “suicide” was treated the same way as the word “rape.” Suicide blog posts and news articles are often prefaced with trigger warnings. People are beginning to understand how individualized triggers can be. But you won’t see the film SUICIDE SQUAD altered to a new name like TASK FORCE X even though it work just fine as far as viewers are concerned. Instead WB/DC takes every opportunity to associate characters with the word “suicide” while failing to see the gravitas.
DC did this already with Harley Quinn during the artist hunt contest where people were asked to follow a short script, written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, where the artist was meant to force Harley to try and kill herself in a variety of ridiculous ways. They included things like dropping toasters into her bath water, holding a lightning rod during a storm and baiting a crocodile with chicken. Harley, if you aren’t familiar, is a former psychologist who went insane (feel free to ask Dr. Drea Letamendi on the clinical diagnosis she would give Harley since I’m not a doctor). Incidentally the contest went well and they had some talented people submit their art despite the egregious insensitivity of the script’s content.
No creative team in comics or Hollywood would put a character in a situation that mocks sexual assault unless it was part of telling the evil personality of that character. You would never ask artists to enter a contest where they are trying to make a character rape other people and have the character “fight back” with the artist as Harley did in the suicide contest panels.
You would never get DC Comics to name a mercenary team, the RAPE REGIMENT but SUICIDE SQUAD is totally fine.
Evil things happen and they shouldn’t be censored from storytelling. However, the producers, editors, and creators should begin exercising some common sense in avenues that have exposed new mental/medical concerns that were rather unknown in 1959. You’ve had over 50 years of advancements in PTSD diagnosis to understand that trauma can have lasting affects on people. “Shellshock” doesn’t need to be actively showing symptoms 24 hours a day to be real; if that “shellshock,” which is now part of the larger PTSD diagnosis, is not from military service but from another traumatic experience, why would you mock it by naming something entertaining after it? It’s because “they” the producers/creators/etc. think the word “suicide” is so fun and resonating that it’s the best thing they could come up with for marketing a brand.
I’m one hundred percent sure the die hard fans would call this debate “overly sensitive” or (laughably) “censorship” rather than what it is: It’s calling out a company that has an opportunity for growth but ignoring it in lieu of branding.
Would anyone be truly courageous enough to start one of those CHANGE.org petitions asking for the film to be renamed? (Let’s face it, more people will see the film than the comic). No. No one would tackle that because it’s not about “ism” sensitivities, sexual violence, or LGBTQ-phobias.