The Media’s Questions About Anthony Bourdain’s Death

Op-Ed: Anthony Bourdain’s death has us asking the wrong questions about suicide – and it also raises the question of what we should be asking

In the weeks after Anthony Bourdain’s death, news reports about the incident that led to his death and subsequent arrest have been filled with the kind of sensationalized reporting that serves to bolster the narrative that he fatally shot himself or took his own life. His death, one of the lowest-hanging fruit in news cycles for years, has since entered the foodie lexicon — as has his reputation — and the media’s questions have largely been the questions of when, not if, he had died.

That focus on what happened rather than what the media did with the information has opened up the conversation on what we should, or should not, ask about suicide and self-harm, among other things.

It’s easy not to think that suicide and self-harm are important topics when we’re inundated by death and destruction. And when we’re asked to consider something that’s always been difficult to get our heads around, it’s easy to see how our perspective can become distorted.

Perhaps it’s not a failure of imagination on my part to think of Anthony Bourdain as more or less of a stand-up comedian. He was funny, thoughtful, and entertaining with a distinct personality. And yet as he put on his dark glasses and took his seat beside me on a plane to Los Angeles, he seemed tired, and his jokes failed him.

I’ve been a long-running critic of the media, and I’ve been critical of their framing of “death,” particularly suicide, as a problem to be solved and not a part of life. I know, I know, we haven’t lost the “there” there. It’s here and us. Right? In our hands. In our hearts. But we don’t get to control

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