5.15.2012

Suicide/Euthenasia Trope

 Scene from Alien: Director's cut -- Captain Dallas
begs Ripley to kill him to shorten his suffering

Firstly, apologies for the dearth of posts this week. It's been a busy and stressful week not just with work but some goings-on between the Vatican and a certain order of priests that could irrevocably alter my family's life.

That said, I complained in my review of The Hunger Games about the glorification of suicide -- for those who haven't read the book or seen the film, rather than throw down their weapons in defiance of the Capital's order that Katniss and Peeta attempt to kill one another, they decide on an impromptu suicide pact as the great solution that wins the day. Suicide and euthenasia as an "honourable" or "humane" thing to do has cropped up in quite a few works. It comes up a fair bit in works based in the Aliens "universe", starting with Ridley Scott's Director's cut of Alien where he inserted a discarded scene of an cacooned Dallas begging Ripley to kill him (she does), to Cameron's settler asking the marines to kill her, to the Dark Horse comics which continue the tradition. I know there was a third work I was going to mention but I've forgotten ...

It's all a not-so-subtle promotion of euthenasia as good humanitarian act, another bit of the whole "dying with dignity" propaganda. It's also rather sympathetic -- who wouldn't rather get a quick bullet to the head rather than have a vicious alien burst its way out through your chest? Which is why it's certainly dangerous and something people must be aware and critical of when they are reading any work.

I won't go into a long rant about why suicide and euthenasia are wrong, but on a purely pragmatic level, I think that people tempted to suicide are done a great disservice by the romanticisation that suicide receives --  suicides seem to beget more suicides. Whenever there is a suicide in a community, there seem to be others when that other depressed people see all the positive attention the suicide receives and this encourages them. If a suicide receives just reprehension for his crime, on the other hand -- as was done in the Catholic Church of yore -- they will be deterred. Is it cruel to prevent more suicides?

1 comment:

Sophia's Favorite said...

The euthanasia advocates are correct, actually, that dignity is more important than life—otherwise "death before dishonor" would be lunacy, and it isn't. Where they're wrong is in thinking that suffering is undignified. The cowardice entailed in running from suffering is far more undignified.

Of course, the people writing Aliens screwed up—since killing the host before a chest-buster is done developing usually kills the chest-buster, Dallas' begging for death could have been rational, and even self-sacrificing. But they chose to present it as "mercy" killing, and actually neutered some of their drama.

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