Vice Editors Ax Suicide Fashion Spread in Uproar Over Taste

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When a prominent celebrity takes his or her life, those who are "on the brink of struggling," can be pushed to suicidal behavior, according to Peck.

Jezebel commenters were split on the issue.

"If they were in a gallery and the artist was trying to convey something meaningful, then I wouldn't have a problem with the portraits," wrote one. "They make me wonder what was going through their minds when they made the choice to commit suicide and they make me want to cry because I've been there myself. But suicide to sell clothing? … no."

"I hope that the photographer chooses their venue more carefully in the future, because the photos themselves are quite beautiful in a morbid way," said another.

But others saw outrage over the photo spread as something more symptomatic of American's fear of depicting death.

"Yes, it is shocking, gaudy and tasteless," said Simon Critchley, a professor at New York City's New School, who taught a course on suicide.

"But there has been a long tradition depicting female suicides, to wit, Millais's 'Ophelia,' or, for a real and not fictive person, Frida Kahlo's 'The Suicide of Dorothy Hale.' The images do indeed scare the public because death has become taboo."

One of the Vice images by photographer Annabel Mehran of a woman on the ground after falling to her death is reminiscent of Kahlo's painting, according to Critchley's wife Jamieson Webster, co-author of their book, "Stay, Illusion: The Hamlet Doctrine."

According to Webster, the book deals with the topics of death and suicide and the modern aversion to facing either one. In the Victorian era, parents posed with their dead children in farewell photographs.

"In the Victorian age, they were not afraid of death, but they were afraid of sexuality. Now we can put naked pictures all over the place but not this," she said of the Vice photo spread.

Webster, a psychologist, said this denial of the reality of death can lead to depression and even suicide.

"Typically depression, which used to be called melancholia, is about the failure to mourn loss," she said. "If we ban images of death, we are creating melancholia."

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