Throwback Thursday: The Virgin Suicides

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I have a confession to make. As a teenager, I was utterly fascinated by films or literature that explored the themes of suicide. In fact, it was so much my focus that even my poetry reflected that. Now, perhaps at the time, I was guilty of glamorizing a horrific act, in part because at the time I saw it as a solution to my teenage depression and a manifestation of trying to get people to understand how serious my inner turmoil was (and not be blown off as simple teenage angst). This is why books and films like The Virgin Suicides hit home, especially when the youngest sibling, Cecilia tells the doctor after a suicide attempt gone wrong, “Obviously, Doctor, you’ve never been a 13-year old girl.” And that statement was the crux of both the film and novel.

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We, the audience, never know what it means to be a 13-year old girl, especially since the narrator of the story is an older male reflecting back on his youth and his fascination with the five beautiful sisters. The film was Sofia Coppola’s directorial debut, and she did a stunning job at demonstrating the male gaze (cause after all the book is written by a male who’s trying to understand teenage girls). When we all know that the only way to truly understand a teenage girl is to have been a teenage girl yourself.

The film depicts how the neighborhood boys elevated the sisters (especially Lux played by the superb Kirsten Dunst) to an almost saintly level. They can’t understand why Cecilia wished to die, nor do they understand why sisters followed suit soon after in the most horrific ways.

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The Lisbon sisters are never allowed to simply be girls, which means that they, like other girls that have come before and after them, have always struggled with this dilemma where girls aren’t allowed to be real people. That they must fit into someone else’s idea of what they should be (their parents, society, etc.). and that ultimately, it’s that wanting to break free from that saintly ethereal mask that is pinned so aggressively upon them that breaks them in a way that no one will ever comprehend. When Lux tries to break out of her good-girl box and has sex with the school heartthrob Trip (Josh Harnett), the consequences are exceptionally dire, and ones that many teenage girls can relate to.

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What spurs the demise of the Lisbon sister isn’t their sadness, but rather they choose death because they see it as the only vehicle to freedom. They couldn’t be free to be themselves, they had to live up to the expectations that were thrust upon them, and in an act of rebellion, they eliminated themselves as a way to not conform. And sadly, that is something that many teenage girls relate to, and why teenage me only saw death as a means to escape as well.

Men that watch the film will never understand the motives for the girls’ suicides, as the boys in the movie never do. But the girls in the audience know why. Because obviously, the men in the audience have never been a 13-year old girl. But us girls have been and although we can’t condone the act, we do understand why.

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Suicide Has Escalated Because Americans Are Depressed

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Suicide Can Be Preventable If We Know The Warning Signs

Warning Signs of Suicide

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself.

  • Looking for a way to kill oneself.

  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.

  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.

  • Talking about being a burden to others.

  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.

Suicide has been on the rise in the past ten years. And it’s no surprise that that is the case when 1 in 4 Americans are depressed. There’s a myriad of reasons why more and more Americans are depressed, whether it’s for the lack of stable employment, unstable relationships, and debilitating debt. In a world where success is measured by your bank account, it’s obvious that the average person nowadays feels like they’re severely lacking.

But what about celebrities who seem to have it all? Why are suicide rates rising in their circle as well? Because depression is a serious illness and often not one that people are readily willing to admit to having or needing help. And often, when they do go to doctors for help, they are merely prescribed anti-depressant after anti-depressant, that often, one of the side-effects of said anti-depressant is suicidal thoughts.

What actually needs to find out the source of their unhappiness, and only then can a true recovery be accomplished. Medication may help alleviate symptoms for some, but it’s only with the help of other people and your own can you overcome depression and the feeling of unworthiness that comes along with it.

But while suicide rates have increased over the years, the ones who are the most at risk of committing suicide are white males by 84%. A study has shown that just this past week with celebrities Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain committing suicide, has increased suicide across the states by 25%. Now experts are afraid that suicide contagion may cause those individuals that have been contemplating suicide to take the so-called plunge. Suicidal thoughts may increase when you see celebrities taking their own lives, as it has individuals experiencing a greater sense of hopelessness, thinking that if a celebrity who was living their best life committed suicide, then how could they ever achieve happiness themselves, and thus see suicide as their only way out.

Mental Health conditions and depression aren’t the only reasons people are seeking suicide as a solution to their problems. People experiencing relationship problems and loss of a loved one are at a greater risk, along with those that abuse alcohol or drugs. Stress is also a major component, whether you’re experiencing stress due to employment (or lack of one), money, legal, or housing issues are also at risk for suicide. Not to mention stress due to physical health conditions.

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So what can we do to help?

  1. Don’t leave that person alone.
  2. Separate that person from anything that might harm them.

If you or someone else is thinking about suicide, there is help!

The suicide rate in the United States has seen sharp increases in recent years. Studies have shown that the risk of suicide declines sharply when people call the national suicide hotline: 1-800-273-TALK.

There is also a crisis text line.

For crisis support in Spanish, call 1-888-628-9454.

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Remembering Dolores and the Summer of 1999

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While the majority of the world became a Cranberries fan with the iconic song Zombie, I didn’t become a fan till 1999, when their fourth album Bury the Hatchet was released, preceded by their single, Promises. Something about that angry revenge anthem spoke to me (I was an angsty, angry teen) and I also loved the music video cause the wicked witch of the west resembled Fairuza Balk a little. Someone else who was equally a fan of that album was my cousin Melody.

I remember how she and I would listen to the album and daydream about living in London or Los Angeles. That we felt that maybe, in cities like that, our mutual weirdness would be better understood or at least not scoffed or poked fun at, as opposed to where we lived.

My cousin was a bigger fan than I was, to the point that she said, “I wish my name could be Dolores at least it would be better suited for me than Melody. Do-lo-res…just saying it sounds darkly poetic.”

We’d sing along to Animal Instinct whilst applying makeup and drinking conspicuous amounts of coffee and Bailey’s Irish Cream. Clouds of smoke would circle above our heads as we shared lipsticks and secrets, all the while Dolores O’Riordan’s voice at times aggressive, other times ethereal playing in the background. We’d stroll the cobblestone streets of our small Sicilian town, humming Just My Imagination, and dreaming big dreams. This was before selfies were a thing, so I don’t have photos documenting those moments of us together, but they’ve remained engrained in my mind, milk fresh as though they’ve only happened several months ago, and not years ago. How we’d lie both in bed, our long hair meshing together, her’s bleached blonde, mine strawberry blonde, and how it created the perfect sunset hue, and the notes from the songs would transport us elsewhere, somewhere we were convinced that we’d be better versions of ourselves.

On Christmas Eve of 2013, Melody committed suicide—and although I hadn’t seen her in years since 1999 (I had moved to America and she had moved to Turin), I couldn’t stop thinking of the last summer days we spent together. Of how everything seemed possible—when we were young and fearless. And we didn’t know it then, but maybe, we already were the better versions of ourselves but we were just too blind to see it.

Now, with the recent and unexpected death of Dolores O’Riordan, I can’t help but think about how Bury the Hatchet had been the soundtrack of my last days spent with Melody. And how often, these last five years, I’ve found myself listening to the familiar songs as a way to feel closer to my cousin, as a way to be transported back to those careless summer days.

And now, I’m merely left with the songs and the memories of a summer that’s gone and with it its dreams.

By: Azzurra Nox

Chris Cornell: Black Hole Sun – When the Darkness Swallows You

Many people were surprised this morning to wake up to the news of the death of Chris Cornell, frontman of rock bands Soundgarden and Audioslave. He was also known for being a member of Temple of Dog, a tribute band dedicated to his late friend Andrew Wood who died of Heroin overdose.

Like, Nirvana, Soundgarden were one of the most popular bands to come out of Seattle in the late 90’s, carrying the torch for the grunge movement. But apart from having the staple grunge growl, Chris was known for his near four octave vocal range and being a prolific songwriter.

His love for music began during his teenage years, when he found a box of Beatles records during a time he was really depressed. He rose to prominence with his band Soundgarden, and gained international recognition with their sophomore album Superunknown, that featured singles Black Hole Sun and Spoonman, which both won Grammy Awards. Superunknown is listed #336 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of 500 Greatest Albums of all time, while VH1 listed Black Hole Sun as #25 on the Top 100 Greatest Songs of the 90’s.

When Zack de La Rocha left Rage Against the Machine, Chris Cornell was asked to join the band, which soon became Audioslave. Apart from being the frontman for two bands, he was also known for his solo work, especially the song You Know My Name, the song written for the Bond film Casino Royale. His most recent songwriting endeavor was the charity single The Promise written for the ending credits for the movie of the same name about the Armenian genocide.

Chris was touring with his original band, Soundgarden when he committed suicide by hanging himself in his hotel room after a show in Detroit. Although this may have come as a shock to many, perhaps the darkness the singer experienced as a teen may have resurfaced again. Or maybe, like the ancient Greeks, he wished to have a most glorious death, meaning to die right after experiencing one of his best days because who wouldn’t want to end it on a high? The truth is, in these circumstances, we never know why someone decides to take their own life. But one thing is certain, too often the music world is plagued by the darkness that consumes their artists.

But after all that is said and done, at least we’re left with the music to remember these tortured artists by. And I like to believe that maybe they have found some peace in an after world that burns a little brighter than the one they left behind.

If you or anyone you know are feeling suicidal you can seek help at American Foundation for Suicide Prevention or Suicide Prevention Lifelife. You are not alone.

By: Azzurra Nox