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Opinion: Hollywood should stop glamorizing serious issues like suicide, addiction and murder

For more than 100 years, Hollywood has offered amazing, Oscar-winning movies and television shows. As we constantly consume them, writers and directors sometimes glamorizes serious issues, such as drug abuse, suicide and murder.
This is a photo of Netflix’s main menu. Photo by Cameron Fronk.

Cameron Fronk
Oxford Stories
cafronk@go.olemiss.edu

For more than 100 years, Hollywood has offered amazing, Oscar-winning movies and television shows. As we constantly consume them, writers and directors sometimes glamorize serious issues, such as drug abuse, suicide and murder.

In the spring of 2017, the show “13 Reasons Why” aired on Netflix. The show tells the story of a 17-year-old girl named Hannah who commits suicide, leaving behind 13 audio cassette tapes for 13 classmates who all played a part in the events that led to her death.

The show flashbacks into the past, then to the present showing how students are dealing with the death of Hannah and whether or not she is lying or telling the truth about the incidents that lead to her death.

The show becomes increasingly graphic. In the second to the last episode, Hannah reveals she was raped, and the show features a clip of the graphic incident leaving audiences disturbed.

According to The Atlantic, research published by JAMA Internal Medicine indicated: “Google queries about suicide rose by almost 20 percent in 19 days after the show aired on Netflix, representing between 900,000 and 1.5 million more searches than usual regarding the subject.”

The show may have also influenced copycat suicides, according to ABC News, which reported that two high-school students took their lives just days after binge-watching “13 Reasons Why.” The uncle of one of the minors said he felt the show didn’t offer viewers information about how to cope with depression; it illustrated there was only one way out – suicide.

An example of this is Hannah never shares her thoughts about suicide with family and friends. On the last episode, she reveals how empty she is to her guidance counselor, but rather than help Hannah, he questions her about her sexual assault as if it was her fault it happened.

Movies today keep getting edgier. Some glamorize drug abuse, alcohol abuse and murder. The upcoming movie “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” is a chronicle about serial killer Ted Bundy’s crimes from the perspective of his longtime girlfriend (played by actress Lily Collins), who refuses to believe the truth about him for years. The movie glamorizes the horror of Bundy’s crimes by having Zac Efron, a handsome teen idol, star as Bundy.

With Efron playing the role of Bundy, audiences may not understand how horrific the crimes Bundy committed were. Yes, he was known to be attractive, charming and seemingly sensitive, but he shouldn’t be portrayed by a well-known, heartthrob actor. That is glamorizing rape and murder.

According to The Salt Lake Tribune, Director Joe Berlinger said he tried to avoid glamorizing and glorifying Bundy while telling the story from Bundy’s girlfriend, Elizabeth Kloepfer’s, perspective.

Another example is Hollywood’s glamorization of drug and alcohol abuse through comedy. In an interview with “Access Hollywood,” actress/singer Demi Lovato discussed her addiction to cocaine as a teenager and her belief that Hollywood should stop glamorizing drug and alcohol abuse because it is a disease.

“I wish more people would lose the stigma and treat the addiction as the deadly and serious disease that it is,” she told “Access Hollywood. “Drugs are not something to glamorize in pop music or film to portray as harmless recreational fun.”

Leaders of the film industry should take more responsibility for the content they produce and avoid making violence, addiction and death appealing.

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