Suicide Prevention: David Foster Wallace and Last Night's Bachelor Finale

by tully
March 3, 2009 4:10 AM
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Lately, I have been reading David Foster Wallace's A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. I've never read the man's fiction, but the non-fiction is utterly spectacular, at once intimidating and inspiring. Re-reading his essay on David Lynch has been as much of a pleasure as it was the first time around, and the title essay, about a week on a cruise ship, is a straight-up masterpiece.

Saturday night, I got drunker than I've been in a very long time. One of those drunks where the hangover is a two-day process; the first (i.e., Sunday), a physical low, the second (i.e., yesterday), a mental one.

Last night, as I read the recent New Yorker article on DFW by D. T. Max, "The Unfinished," in which he tells of the depression that caused Wallace to take his own life, on my sister's big flat-screen television in the background, the season finale of "The Bachelor" unfolded.

I don't know if it was the hangover, the tragedy surrounding the loss of this hugely talented mind, or the shocking spectacle of this game show romance unfolding on screen, but I felt a whole lot sadder about the world all of a sudden.

But, really, if I can isolate and be honest with my feelings in this state of semi-depression (I wouldn't be able to do that if it were an all encompassing one—hence, the 'semi'), it's this "Bachelor" fiasco that sucked the Serotonin out of me like the infamously powerful toilet both praised and feared by DFW in his essay "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again."

I don't know what is more horrifying and incomprehensible: that these individuals could genuinely believe that a pre-packaged television series would introduce them to the love of their lives, their soul mate, their Everything At Once; or that viewers would watch this show with any semblance of sincerity? A 21st Century fantasy of the most disgusting kind, "The Bachelor" is like a Harlequin romance meets a game show meets a particularly insidious advertisement. I thought the two-hour finale was bad enough, but when the follow-up hour, "After the Rose," began, and I realized that this Jason fellow was backtracking once again, I had to turn away.

In the context of reading that article, I couldn't help but imagine David Foster Wallace watching that three-hour display of humanity at its most superficial, gaudy, and false, and even on his most optimistic of days, not feel an overwhelming, all-encompassing despair that would drain any drops of hope he had left for this world.

If I weren't in a less stable place myself, I might have been driven into some darker corners of my interior. But fortunately, I am not the deeply tortured individual that I wanted to be for so many years. I am content in my normalcy, and am thus able to leave that television show behind and concentrate on my own happy days that await me.

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