By MAMAMIA TEAM
In a fashion spread by photographer Annabel Mehran, Vice magazine has attempted to sell clothes through glamourising the suicides of famous female authors.
Vice magazine are well known for trying to ‘push the envelope’ with their fashion shoots. But this sick attempt to sell clothes by making suicide look ‘edgy’ and ‘sexy’ is a whole new level of distasteful.
This also comes on top of previous fashion shoots from other brands that seek to glamourise prostitution and homelessness. And it makes you wonder how far the fashion industry will really go to sell an outfit.
So, who were the famous authors whose tragic deaths Vice have used to try and get you to buy some frocks?
Well, their first salesgirl is Virginia Woolf, whose long struggle with depression was so beautifully portrayed in The Hours by Nicole Kidman. Among Woolf’s classic novels are Mrs Dalloway, a book which deals with themes of suicide and A Room Of One’s Own, which is generally seen as a seminal feminist text.
Woolf committed suicide by drowning, in 1941. She wrote a farewell letter to her husband, filled the pockets of her overcoat with stones, and walked into the River Ouse. Woolf was plagued by a deep, dark and tragic depression. And yet in Vice’s fashion shoot, a model made up to look like Woolf stares languidly into the middle-distance.
Virginia Woolf, in the final moments of life, has been turned into an object. Into a passive clothes horse.
Plath died from carbon monoxide poisoning after she deliberately turned on a gas oven in a sealed room. And now her passing is being used to sell clothes and accessories. The photos are even helpfully captioned with the name of the garments, the brand and where you can make a purchase.
In another photo in the set, Chinese author Sanmao is depicted hanging herself with a pair of silk stockings.
And yes, the stockings are for sale.
These are not imagined suicides. These are real women, whose intense depression and sadness is now being used to market trendy hipster clothing. The stupidity, tastelessness and cruelty of using these women’s stories as marketing fodder is almost unbelievable.
Glamourising suicide, aside from being deeply insensitive, is problematic for ‘copy cat’ reasons. News Medical writes:
By studying the behaviour of 1000 computer ‘people’, pre-programmed with the rules that govern how people learn from one another, Dr Mesoudi has investigated the problem of copycat suicides to see whether suicidal behaviour in the population really does fit with sociologists’ assumptions.
Two kinds of suicide clusters have been identified by previous sociological research. Mass clusters are suicides that occur around the same time but across an entire geographic region (eg. a country), and are often associated with media coverage of celebrity suicides, such as that of the musician Kurt Cobain.
Dr Mesoudi said: “The findings of the computer simulations strongly support the proposed link between the mass reporting of a prestigious celebrity’s suicide and an increase in national suicide figures. This highlights the need for media guidelines that restrict the dissemination and glorification of suicides, as already introduced in many countries, such as Austria, Switzerland and Australia.”
Emile Durkheim, a French sociologist, once wrote, “No fact is more readily transmissible by contagion than suicide.”
And sadly he is right.
In Australia, approximately six people die from suicide every day. In 2009, it was ranked as the 14th leading cause of death in Australia – and 10th for males. In 2009 again, suicide was the leading cause of death – accounting for 22 percent of deaths – for people aged between 15-24 years old.
The number of people who attempt suicide – or think about suicide – is much, much higher. The World Health Organisation estimates that between 10–20 million people attempt suicide every year.
This is not sexy. This is not edgy. This is not cool.
It is a tragic loss of life. Not a marketing tool.
Editor’s note: Overnight, the fashion shoot described in this article has now been quietly removed from Vice’s website. We have chosen not to show the photos on Mamamia because while we think it is important that the shoot is widely condemned, we don’t wish to promote the items for sale within it.
If you need someone to talk to please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or www.lifeline.org.au For help if you are experiencing depression, contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36 or at www.beyondblue.org.au