Whether you follow them or not, rating systems are helpful in alerting people of content that may not be suitable for young viewers, themselves, or others. When you see “V” on the screen before a show goes on, you know right away there’s violence in the episode you’re about to watch. It’s not the most revealing opening to a story, I know, but it’s a fact. Ratings help you if you need to follow them.
That brings me to a point, which, mind you, is very personally charged. I think it’d be beneficial if rating systems included a notation whenever suicidal content is included. A few years back during in an eight month span, I lost two people to suicide. While I realize my senses are heightened, I’ve seen first hand how debilitating the mere mention of suicide in various programming can be for family members. It may only momentarily set them back, but it does nonetheless. Alerting similar viewers that a suicide or situation is featured may help them avoid it altogether or mentally prepare themselves to watch it and take the sting out.
On a related note, “I’m going to kill myself” is just an expression, and I get that. Way too often, however, it’s a line used on TV, in film and song lyrics to get laughs. Michael Scott, for example, used to say it all the time on The Office. Sometime it was funny — sometimes it was a stretch. If we can limit derogatory terms like “faggot” in movie trailers and curse words on prime time TV (although I’ve noticed more and more “dick” drops at the 8:30 p.m. hour), perhaps it’s time we limit hurtful comments like that for awhile or at least denote when it’s going to be said.
In my observations, the words can serve as daggers in the hearts of someone who lost someone. Visuals are worse. Just last weekend, I was watching Saturday Night Live’s Digital Short when all of a sudden Matt Damon — playing a homeless guy — shot his head off during a game of Russian roulette. The audience ate it up. I didn’t and can imagine how families touched by suicide felt.
I realize you can’t have ratings for everything. I’m not asking for an “A” before a program features alcoholism, but it’s a relatively simple ask. Maybe it’s the stigma surrounding suicide that adds tothis notion for me. I know when my best friend died in a car accident, I could watch any content with turnpike crashes and not be phased. If you agree with me (or not) — weigh in below. What I’d really love to do is have some sort of IMDB database of all shows containing suicidal references and actions. That’d take some work, but I’m game. If such a service exists, please tell me. If you can help me get it off the ground, I’m listening.