Blame TV Network for Suicide?

Although this situation occurred last fall, it was brought to my attention yesterday by a friend.  The Bravo show, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills had a tricky situation this season.  On August 15, 2011 Russell Armstrong, one of the housewives’ husbands, committed suicide only weeks before the new season was to air.  This provided a problem for the network in order to respect him and his family.

The couple’s failing marriage was supposed to be the center of the new season’s plot, however, the network decided not to show Armstrong in the first four episodes.  Before his death he talked about how the show had changed himself and his wife and said “this show has literally pushed us to the limit”.

Here is a link to the story:

http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/russell-armstrong-suicide-latest-real-housewives-curse/story?id=14318388#.TygLV8VAZWw

Armstrong was reportedly in $1.5 million dollars in debt attempting to keep a lavish lifestyle for the show according to his lawyer.  There have been many people in the blogger world questioning whether Bravo and the show were to blame for making his life very stressful.  Some people even suggesting networks should psychologically screen people to see if they are mentally prepared to be on a reality show.

This is a link to a blog talking about how blaming the network is just crap.

http://www.divinecaroline.com/122442/117622–real-housewives-suicide-bravo-blame/2

While I definitely see how being on the show escalated his emotions, for someone to say the show is to blame is just too much.  There have to be underlying factors that made Armstrong commit suicide.   There was talk from his family about possibly trying to sue the network.  I do not know all the details of the contracts these people have, but I know that if my family was on a reality show and it became too much, I would do everything I could to get myself and family off the show.

However, it is very interesting to see the effects the media can have on celebrities by putting extra stress on them by showing the world their problems and magnifying them times ten.  I don’t think it is really possible for a potential celebrity to completely understand what their life will be like in the spotlight until it actually happens.  But I also think that if you put yourself in the spotlight, although it may not be entirely possible to take yourself out because of the paparazzi, but you can definitely take small steps.  In this case, Armstrong should have attempted to get off the show.

This has not been the first time TV has been blamed for harming people physically and mentally.  Our American culture places large importance on having reality shows where people thrive on other’s issues and drama.  So, is the American population to blame since we are the ones who watch the shows and create the demand for them?

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2 comments on “Blame TV Network for Suicide?

  1. I agree with you that you can’t blame a show for someone’s suicide; however, I do think that by making stupid, unethical or otherwise ridiculous people who make no contribution to society into celebrities, we do a disservice to ourselves. One show might be harmless entertainment but together they contribute to creating a culture that is not something to be proud of.

    OK, I’ll stop ranting now. : )

    • You make a very good point and there are some very pointless shows out there that we always assume are harmless entertainment. But, these reality shows are (while many times scripted) still people’s lives. I think it would be interesting to look up some research about this sort of thing. (I might just go and do that).

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