I’m only on the second post of this blog, and I’m already off-topic. Self-high five, Lucy.
It is a semi-related topic though, in the greater scale of things – I keep a list of things to do during the day, every day, and writing posts for this blog is one of them. The difference in my productivity in completing this list each day is, however, that I haven’t been sleeping. Not as in ‘I don’t sleep ever’, but more ‘I’ve been trying to fall asleep for three hours’ kind of not-sleeping. Ever since I was a teenager I’ve gone through bouts of insomnia, I’m not sure if it’s a hereditary thing (if that’s even possible), but my mom and grandmother are the same as well. Each doctor I see tries to medicate me about it, but that is just aiding the problem and not looking for the cause so thanks, but no thanks. Instead, I end up with a middle of the night yoga session to try and exhaust my body to that point that it physically cannot keep itself awake.
Insomnia makes me think of a lot of things, but most recently of Supernatural and an episode in season seven when Sam is committed to a psychiatric hospital for insomnia-induced hallucinations. In the episode there is a brief discussion of the longest a human being has been able to stay awake for, and they say that the longest record holder was 11 days and then they died. Now, don’t quote me on the 11, it may have been a different number, but it’s almost 2am and I haven’t voluntarily been up this late since I was a freshman in college with the new freedom of no boarding school matrons shutting the internet off at 9pm sharp. Anyway, the point is they claimed that 11 (????) days without sleep would kill you. I found this point fascinating the first time I watched it and ended up researching it a little – turns out, not true. There have been sleep experiments to see what effects sleep deprivation can have on the human body, but no one has died from them (as far as Google knows and is willing to tell me, anyhow). There are horrific side effects like hair loss, weakening of the nails and teeth and other things you’d just really choose not to endure, but nothing as long-term as death.
In my semi-coherent state of personal sleep deprivation, this got me to thinking about how Supernatural almost glamorises this. Stick with me here, I have a point, I promise. The most recent claims of glamorisation were for Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, a programme that revolved around the aftermath of Hannah Baker’s suicide as well as being told in flashback to the lead up to (and showing of) her death. There were a vast amount of mixed reactions to this, with the two main camps being it glamorised teenage suicide against the show illustrating the far-reaching effects that aren’t always consider by suicide victims. I’m not going to offer my own opinion on this, mainly because I see reason and rational to both sides of the argument, but instead I’m going to ask a question: why is glamorisation only shown in the instances of suicide and sexual assault/sex work? Hot Girls Wanted is accused of glamorising the sex work industry, 13 Reasons Why is too poetic about teenage suicide, but why is this discussion not expanded to other topics? Why isn’t Arrow accused of glamorising the lifestyle of being a vigilante? Why aren’t we sharpening the pitchforks for the romanticism of evading the police in Pretty Little Liars? What about self-mutilation and assault in The Vampire Diaries? Why do we restrain these conversations to programmes which are explicitly about one topic or another, as opposed to the long-running serials which demonstrate the same things week in and week out for season after season?
And there, in the crux of this argument, lies the answer – either the 1st amendment applies to all, or it applies to nothing. Now, I write this as a pre-1770 American sitting in my London apartment with my metaphorical cup of tea and judgmental expression, but even I understand that the free speech amendment has not caveats or limitations short of shouting fire in a crowded theatre – side-note, that is an oddly specific thing to include. I understand what it means, but why is it limited to fire? Also, is it still in place if there is an actual fire in the theatre?
We can’t judge some but not all – that’s the caveat here. Long-running, short-order, limited series, September-May programming, the same rules must apply for all in terms of reception. If we’re going to examine 13 Reasons Why under a microscope, we must examine Jeremy trying to kill himself in The Vampire Diaries, Violet in American Horror Story and the kid from Glee (not that one, the other one) in the same critical light. Why is one more glamorising and influential than another? I realise that I started this on a different tangent with Supernatural, and so I’ll return to it – 16-year old Lucy was fascinated by Sam’s sleep deprivation, and tried to mimic it to see what the symptoms were. Was that incredibly stupid? Yes. Did it have long-lasting effects? No, but I failed several exams and was in a pretty uncontrollable spiral of depression and anxiety because of it for a few months. I’m a fairly sensible human being, but if (stupid) 16-year old me was able to be enticed by the drama created by Sam, I understand the worry that copycats may come out of more serious actions like Hannah Baker’s. Does this meant we should have more heavily-regulated television? No, absolutely not. What it might mean, however, is changes within the industry. 13 Reasons Why now has several lengthy warnings before episodes that might cause distress, and they list numbers for helplines and hotlines in the country it is being streamed in. Supernatural, within the last two or three years, has found itself becoming a starting point for a charity campaign in support of depression called ‘Always Keep Fighting’ (AKF) that has begun training support staff to help vulnerable and struggling members within the community, including those who may have been triggered by the show itself. While the shows themselves do of course need to be controlled in accordance with their network/rating/target demos, the community created by the show is also a huge part of the effect it can have on people – the more inclusive and less isolating it is, the more likely people are to find friends and confidantes within the group and the less likely they are to be negatively impacted or encouraged by what they see on the show. It creates a safe space.
CONTINUED AT 9AM THE NEXT MORNING:
This is a ramble. Sorry. Either way, logical point (maybe?) – we can’t judge some shows by one standard and others by a different way, simply because of the subject matter. If you need everything to uphold the after school special routine of ‘this is bad don’t do it kids’, you end up with Glee. Nobody wants that. In other news, I’m on my third cup of coffee of the morning and still feel like the undead.