As I watched 7 Pounds the other day, I felt uneasy wondering if this movie glorified suicide. Will Smith, being the “hero” of the movie, executes an extremely premeditated suicide, with which he provides organs to specific people, who he has hand-picked. After accidentally wrecking his car and killing his wife (and several strangers) Smith has a pervading death wish, yet he has a need to commit suicide in such a way that he doesn’t feel as if he is responsible for another death—he needs to feel as if his own death is necessary and noble, not just an escape but also a redemption. Smith steals his brother’s identity and poses as an IRS agent, secretly interviewing people he has selected as possible recipients of his organs. He donates various organs while alive, and even donates bone marrow while waiving the anesthesia—he wants to be punished for his wrongs. While this behavior is certainly masochistic and concerning, the finale is much more disturbing. Smith eventually commits suicide, via venomous jellyfish in an ice bath, such that his organs stay preserved, and has an arrangement such that his eyes and heart will be donated to a man and woman he has selected.
The façade of heroism is mostly derived from the fact that Smith hand-picked “good” people as recipients and that he had fallen in love with the woman to whom he was donating his heart, apparently loving her so much that he would die for her. I believe the notion that this is noble is inherently flawed. Every life has immense and equal value; to place more value on saving the life of a morally pure and kind person over saving the life of an average, irritable, or criminally devious person is uncalled for. I believe that not just in medicine, but in all facets of life concerning health it is paramount to not think morally, for imposing our own morals onto the entire world is, in fact, “playing god.” To assume that Smith’s death for “good” people is justified and pure since he has hand-picked the recipients of his organs yet to judge and despise those that take their lives purely out of “selfishness” (assuming that they are organ donors) is absolutely presumptuous. Furthermore, I see Smith’s actions as hurtful because though he knew without doubt that he had an impending expiration date, he spent enough time around the future recipient of his heart such that they fell in love. Once he saw this happening, he didn’t do anything to protect the girl’s heart—he continued to woo her and make her fall deeper in love until he would rip away all that love and replace it with a claim to guilt, a physical piece of meat from Smiths body that would forever frame her for his suicide.
Besides the judgment of this particular movie’s glorification of death, various media presents suicide in a confusing manner that is interpreted as brave and selfless by the youth. For example, various suicides occurred in real life fashioned in the same manner as the suicide depicted in the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. I wouldn’t say the series itself is deranged in any way by directly idealizing suicide, but rather someone who is already depressed may interpret it this way, seeing an attractive and popular character commit suicide, by seeing all her friends and family grieve her death, repent for all their grievances against her, perhaps wishing this upon their own friends and relatives.
I am certainly not suggesting that suicide be banned from social media, rather I think it’s important that people apply logical thinking when exploring such an emotional concept. It’s extremely dangerous to pair wanton emotions with media because completely flawed arguments can easily claim millions, and eventually these deformed and tainted opinions can go on to shape laws and medical practices. Physician assisted suicide, for example, is something that will only be realized with strong public support. While this only applies to those terminally ill or who are “suffering intolerably” for medical reasons, it is indeed a huge advent of medical practices being dictated by social opinions on ethics. Its pertinent that suicide be regarded with care and thought, since it is both emotional and medical; I believe the same is true for mental illness. It is inherently flawed to feel entitled to judging someone for their depression and while blaming someone’s mental illness on their own volition is easy and comforting because it makes you feel impervious to the illness because you’re not as “sensitive” or “selfish” as them, it is ultimately justified by no logic and solely self-serving. I hope the public becomes open to hearing the reality of the physiological basis of depression, in this changing political and social climate, such that informed decisions and judgments can be made.