Anti-Suicide Speech from "Pump Up the Volume"

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In recent months, we've been reminded of teen bullying and suicide as a rising problem in the U.S. For example, I posted a Late Movies installment about the It Gets Better project. But this obviously isn't a new problem. A friend recently sent me this clip from the 1990 movie Pump Up the Volume, in which Christian Slater's character urges his radio audience (who are primarily social outcasts at their school) to reject suicide, despite their pain and torment. Okay, good message.

But it's a weird movie moment. On the one hand, it is a rousing speech, and Slater's character makes a lot of good points -- particularly in the opening lines, where he describes the teenager's place in society. On the other hand, he doesn't offer a practical long-term solution -- his guidance is that death sucks worse than life (with some explicit details), reality is subjective, and then he suggests that the only sane response to an insane situation is to "go crazy" (cf Ronald David Laing). This makes sense in a movie context where a "crazy dance montage" can follow, but may not be practical advice for actual victims of bullying. In fact, some of what's seen in the clip (for example, microwaving a hairdryer and setting the kitchen on fire) might get a kid institutionalized.

Sample line: "Doesn't this blend of blindness and blandness make you want to do something crazy? Then why not do something crazy? It makes a hell of a lot more sense than blowing your [expletive] brains out!" (Montage of listeners "going crazy" follows.)

Warning: several f-bombs are dropped, to good effect; some visuals in the end montage are kinda PG-13/R borderline (no nudity or violence, just...well, you'll see what I mean).

What Do You Think?

So. Inspirational message, or not helpful? Alternate question: what would you tell a teen outcast to help him or her through the torment of high school?

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November 15, 2010 - 7:40am
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