On Monday night’s episode of The Fosters, titled ‘EQ’, the show dealt with the urge that most people feel after watching an episode of the ABC Freeform drama: suicide.
Specifically, the show centered on an effort at the high school to ban Romeo & Juliet. You know, because two people in a made-up story hundreds of years ago killed themselves. And that might lead to 21st Century kids with bucket hats and ironic t-shirts killing themselves.
Watch as Brandon Foster (David Lambert) confronts the PC Commissar who is trying to block his production of Romeo & Juliet:
Brandon: So you're the one behind this.
Sally: Not just me. A lot of students feel that way.
Brandon: Yeah? Well, this is what I think of your petition. No one's saying suicide is sexy.
Sally: Teen suicide is a real problem, Brandon. A big one! God, and you're glamorizing it by staging your play!
Brandon: It's not my play! It's Shakespeare's! And it's done in more schools than any other play in history!
Sally: That doesn't make it right! Last summer, my best friend's sister hung herself after her boyfriend broke up with her. Suicide is a real tragedy, Brandon. Not just some dumb way to end a play. And don't think this is over just 'cause you ripped up a piece of paper, okay? There's a lot more where that came from.
So, there you have it. True to millennial form, literature and history must be erased and discarded in order to preserve the “safe zone” and psychological well-being of the delicate “skulls full of mush.” Also true to form, the matter cannot be left to the kids of the school to decide whether or not they want to attend the play. Oh no, the matter must be decided by the “Honor Board,” which will decide what is best for the “little people:”
Sally: Ok everybody. First thing, Mariana and I will be recusing ourselves from voting since she's in the play and I am making the arguments against R&J. Now, let's get started. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15 to 25-year-olds. Why? Because young adults experience strong, intense feelings of stress, of self-doubt, of loneliness, of loss, of the pressure to succeed. In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare romanticizes suicide as a way for two teenagers in love to be together forever in eternity. Romeo toasts, "Here's to my love," as he drinks the poison that kills him. The poison that Juliet calls "Friendly drops" when she tries to kiss them off his lips, but instead uses a "Happy dagger" to end her life. How is this idealization of love and death a good message to send teenagers? Thank you. Brandon?
Brandon: Forbidding the performance of a classic piece of literature because it might in and of itself trigger someone to kill themself is not only ridiculous, but it's one small step away from banning books. And let's talk about this idea that Shakespeare's romanticizing suicide in Romeo and Juliet. He's not even romanticizing their relationship. I used to think that R&J was about true love. It's not. It's about two rebellious, impulsive teenagers making really bad choices. And-- and this suicide pact at the end, it... It's not portrayed as this ultimate act of true love. It's portrayed as a tragic act taken by two screwed up kids who dismiss the value of their lives. Which is why the last line in the play isn't, "They killed themselves and lived happily ever after." No. It's, "For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo."
Sally: Okay, so we've heard both sides and it's time for the Honor Board to vote. Those in favor of staging Romeo and Juliet, raise your hands. Okay. And against?
And this is what it looks like when liberty is lost on the high school campus, with hands raised high by dullards in V-neck t-shirts and oversized glasses. It’s okay Bill Shakespeare, you had a good run.