A slight change from the usual light-hearted round-up. Following some recent news, George McGhee shares his thoughts on male suicide, mental health and toxic fandom. Think of it as a Public Service Announcement of sorts. You know, like the ones you used to get at the end of He-Man and M.A.S.K. episodes.
By now, you’ve no doubt heard the tragic news of Keith Flint (frontman for the band, The Prodigy) taking his own life earlier this week. The Prodigy were a huge influence on both Charlie and myself growing up, with our love of dance and electronic music still as strong today. The Prodigy were one of the first band’s I ever saw live and one of the best experiences I’ve ever had – Flint’s on-stage swaggering punk presence being a major factor.
Everyone was shocked at the news, including close friend and band member, Liam Howlett who said “I’m shell shocked, fuckin angry, confused and heart broken ….. r.i.p brother Liam”.
Thankfully I’ve never been directly affected by suicide though I have had several people close to me who have. Chances are you or someone close to you has too, with the shocking statistic that it’s the most common cause of death for men aged 20-49 years in England and Wales.
Howlett’s statement is a common response by those affected – friends and family rarely realise that a loved one is suffering from depression. Whilst the topic of mental health has come to the forefront in recent years, my generation grew up in a time where it was frowned upon for men to share their feelings. We grew up in an age of onscreen macho strongmen, people who “ain’t got time to bleed!”. If Rocky was sad, he’d go for a late night drive, have a flashback and listen to power ballads. Whilst that can be therapeutic, it better to open up to someone, even if it’s a stranger. A bit like John McClane confessing his marital problems to Al Powell over a walkie-talkie.
As someone who has battled with anxiety in recent years, I found it very hard to find the courage to talk to someone, even close family members. I know now it’s the most important thing you can do. I heard someone perfectly describe anxiety as your mind making up your own personal conspiracy theories.
Just vocalizing your thoughts with someone can make a world of difference. Approach tasks day by day. Take regular breaks (especially from social media), get some fresh air. Try mindfulness, there are loads of free apps out there like Headspace which can help you switch off. It may not be everyone, (I certainly don’t practice it enough) but give it a try.
On the other side of the fence, if someone you know and care about isn’t seeming themselves, speak to them, ask if they’re ok, offer to help. If they’re unwilling to open up, just let them know you’re there, whenever they’re ready to talk.
To bring it back to film-related topics, this week I also stumbled across a humbling video from Ahmed Best, known to the whole world as the man was played Jar Jar Binks in the Star Wars prequels. Yes, we all like to poke fun at Jar Jar, however Best reveals he suffered so much abuse from angry fans that he was driven to attempting suicide.
Thankfully he hesitated at the last minute, and is in a much better place, with a loving family. It’s shocking to think that such a fan reaction could force someone to take their own life. To think that this was twenty years ago and the internet has become a much more vocal place is especially worrying .
Just recently, angry male fans have been targeting Captain Marvel (Marvel’s first female-led blockbuster), bombarding Rotten Tomatoes with fake reviews before the film has even been released. Platforms like Youtube are only making matters worse, promoting the video “Brie Larson is ruining Marvel” (depressingly at the time of writing, the video has close to 1m views).
Stop doing this, YouTube. I'm watching intros from old video games for reference, but apparently I should watch sad man-babies blubbing about lady superheroes next? This drive to get people engaging with "content" based on negative reactions is deeply unhealthy and creepy af. pic.twitter.com/hrlHPinzjh — Dan Whitehead (@DanWritehead) March 6, 2019
Let’s remember, none of these people have seen the entire film, they’re basing their views on a scant few minutes of footage, some interviews and maybe a poster.
One thing I’ve learnt whilst doing Retro Ramble is to take a balanced view when discussing a particular topic. No one sets out to make a bad film and we frequently forget the number of people and amount of effort required to bring a film to screen. Us, film fans are passionate people. It’s ok to provide your opinion, maybe make some lighthearted jokes, but let’s not overreact. Remember, it’s only a film/TV/game. No one is trying to ruin your childhood.
We live in troubled times, and a little kindness can go along way. So let’s be more open with each other. Don’t be a dick. Be excellent to each other.