Arts Desk

That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore: BYT Asks Morrissey Fans to Write Suicide Notes

Yeah, sure, one of the greatest songs ever—"There Is a Light That Never Goes Out"—is by Morrissey, and is about dying. And Moz is performing at Strathmore on Dec. 7. I'm not sure what the correct convergence of these facts is, but I'm absolutely certain it is not to host a giveaway declaring that the writer of the best suicide note will receive two free tickets to the show.

But local scenester megasite Brightest Young Things thought otherwise, and today asked its readers to do exactly that: Write a suicide note to win tickets. Congratulations! You've made a mockery of a real, serious issue—the act of taking one's life—that was, in 2007, the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. No matter what way you spin it, what BYT has asked their readers to do is pretty dang despicable.

Why aren't suicide notes acceptable fodder for ticket giveways? Catherine Lewis of Showlist DC gave this explanation in her aggregation of music news today:

As you know, I share all the music-related giveaways I can find down at the bottom of these posts every day. Well, here’s one I’m going to post only once: Brightest Young Things is doing a giveaway for Morrissey at Strathmore on 12/7. The contest is for everyone to write a suicide note, and BYT will pick a winner (they wrote: “Best suicide note wins”). Wow. I get that Morrissey and the Smiths’ music is mopey, and I get that BYT is trying to be cute and edgy, but this is pretty screwed up. It’s not just that it’s a morbid contest (which it is, and Shauna at BYT actually responded to one of the entries by writing, “PLEASE DO NOT GO KILL YOURSELF . XX BYT”). It’s that it makes light of suicide, and anyone who’s lived through a friend’s suicide knows what that’s like. It sucks. It absolutely sucks when a friend or loved one takes his/her own life (full disclosure: my friend Jeff killed himself last month and left a public suicide note on his blog). So maybe BYT thought this was funny or some kind of joke, but guess what: writing pretend suicide notes– even to get free concert tickets– isn’t funny and isn’t a joke. I guess this is just another example of how BYT, despite being one of the biggest entertainment blogs in this area, just doesn’t get it.

(Also in the Department of Not Getting It: whoever runs BYT's Twitter and retweeted a criticism of the contest with a link to the contest; and the two dozen or so commenters who have actually penned mock suicide notes—mostly composed of boilerplate Smiths lyrics—in response to the original BYT post.)

I asked Logan Donaldson, BYT's managing editor, what he was thinking. He writes:

The suicide note prompt was an idea generated by a few colleagues after mulling over his body of work, i.e., the song "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out," the death and suicide themes that riddle his lyrics, and his public admonitions of seeing suicide as honorable or even favorable. As with many of our giveaways we wanted to be thematic, and working under the assumption that his most enthusiastic fans would be responding to a first-chance giveaway and would be well acquainted with his maudlin, macabre persona, we saw it as a tongue-in-cheek opportunity to stoke the creativity of the Morrissey fans within our readership.

The reality of suicide is obviously horrifying, and in no way were we promoting or suggesting otherwise. We didn't foresee upsetting a few of our readers in our attempt at being cute with the giveaway theme.

It sounds like the thought process went like this: 1) Procure tickets to give away. 2) Listen to Morrissey's oeuvre. 3) Be all, "LOL, this dude talks about dying a lot, isn't that crazy?" 4) Act clueless when people get upset over something that may have affected their own lives. (One BYT commenter wrote, "[M]y friend committed suicide a year and a half ago. [Y]ou want me to transcribe the note he left me here?")

Why even give credence to BYT's shenanigans? After all, in 2009, Morrissey himself sort of glamorized suicide in an interview with the BBC. And BYT's crassness hasn't deterred its readers from shilling for the tickets with lame prose strung out of Smith lyrics. For example: "Look this world is full of crashing bores and bottom line is he and I don't care if we live or if we die. Though he knows I'd love to see him, its common knowledge that we'll undoubtedly die alone."

It's really quite simple: Suicide shouldn't be used as a prop to give away anything, even—especially—tickets to see Morrissey. There's nothing hard to get about that.

Photo by Flickr user Man Alive!, Creative Commons license

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  • Blogmania


    Please, please for the sake of all that is holy.


  • Sly

    im guessing none of the ivory-tower, pencil-neck GW/Georgetown douchebags who run BYT have ever dealt with a suicide first-hand

  • lmfao

    fuck you guys at city paper. you probs hate the darwin awards too. stop being such little douchebags. glad to have left dc.

  • Rukasu

    We award people prizes for competitive eating contests and I'm sure obesity-related deaths are higher than suicide, as stated, get over yourself

  • Ron The Don

    Ironic that those who bash others for being easily offensive are the ones who are offended themselves.

  • Mark

    This author clearly has issues with Brightest Young Things that extend beyond a ticket giveaway. It's unfortunate his/her distaste drips through this article, because I do think this is something worth discussing.

  • Mike G

    BYT's Morrissey giveaway: lame and in poor taste.
    WCP's attempt to stir up a fake controversy: pathetic.

  • JGK

    Wow, I see the BYT staff is out in force. Good on calling them out Alex, this was b.s.

  • PV

    Brightest Young Things... obviously not. They seem like the types that would be down for some good ol' ironic racism.

  • PV

    Indeed JGK, who the hell reads this and thinks "yeah, that's reasonable."

  • concerned whiner

    This is blatant cyber-bullying of BYT, and we all know what that can lead to!!!

  • Why?

    So. People, like, read BYT? Really?

  • bootyhouse

    the contest idea probably sounded wonderful in theory, but in execution it was awful and insensitive. yes, morrissey's lyrics do revolve a lot around depression and suicide. something that a lot of people deal with, but don't necessarily seek help from. if i'm not mistaken, morrissey is bipolar which has the highest suicide rate of any mental health disease. to mock that is a shame. this only solidifies that the majority of the byt editors/writers/etc. are just a bunch of douchebags.

  • bj

    2 websites that profit from site views using controversial titles to earn profit. Next.

  • Jenna

    I just want free tickets to see Morrissey :(

  • City Paper Archives

    12/16/10: "The whole thing is worth reading, I guess, if you have never had the pleasure of wallowing for an entire year in your growing antipathy towards MBA students. I have, which is why I want to kill myself most of the time."
    4/11/97: "There always comes a time in my monthly sojourn when I want to kill myself."

  • michael

    After seeing this contest giveaway I blocked BYT from my email account. I have no idea how I started getting emails from them in the first place but this is totally inapporiate. Those of have lost people close to them through suicide know it is not a joking matter. What is next a thread making fun of people who died of cancer?

  • anon

    BYT is a content aggregator, not a content generator.

    BYT is also not a humor site, nor should it attempt to justify itself as one (per Stephanie Breijo's not-so-witty response).

    i've struggled with depression in my life. i'm (currently) winning the battle vs my own depression. during some of the hardest days... i've found myself writing suicide notes in my own head. i catch myself looking for a way out. the thing with suicide is you never know how close you come to making it a reality.

    everyday that passes i reflect on some of the hardest days, the days where i did my best to legitimize my own apathy for my existence. i would give anything to not write these own good-bye letter in my head, to not script my own death.

    my life is dedicated to finding myself in a new light, and to find new purpose. I will get better. but the thoughts that i struggle with... every day, all day... they don't need to be used for free concert tickets.