Tragic, romantic, but with an ultimately happy ending, the nail-bitingly suspenseful footage of a jilted Chinese bride who tried to commit suicide by jumping out of a window in her wedding dress is fascinating viewers around the world.
The 22-year-old woman, so far identified only as Miss Li, was pulled back inside by rescuers before she made it off the ledge. But even though the crowd gathered on the street below erupted into applause as soon as she was out of danger, I don't think thousands of people are tuning in because everything turned out okay. We don't like to admit it, but we (humans, that is) have a fascination with death -- and always have.
Will you watch the video?
Morbid curiosity is natural, but we don't treat it that way. Historically, we were more accepting of this quality, even creating holidays and rituals to honor it: The Mexicans had The Day of the Dead; death masks were once made of notable people (including Shakespeare and Abraham Lincoln) to be preserved and later collected. Theatre of the Macabre was all the rage in 19th century Paris, while 16th century monks in Portugal built a chapel out of bones as a meditation on the passing nature of life. Our closest modern-day equivalents are a commercialized, kid-friendly version of Halloween and horror movies. We've kept the gore but lost the mystery.
That's why we can't stop watching the suicidal bride or searching YouTube for graphic footage of people being attacked by wild animals. The critically acclaimed documentary The Bridge is a more elegant example of our somber fixation. For the movie, directors filmed the Golden Gate Bridge (the world's most popular suicide destination) from two separate locations and ended up capturing most of the two dozen suicides occurring during 2004. (They also managed to talk a few people down in the process.)
As the saying goes, death is just a part of life, one that none of us can avoid. Maybe if we were allowed to acknowledge our morbid curiosity in other ways, we wouldn't be reduced to rubbernecking at other people's painful moments.
Can you stop yourself from watching videos like the Chinese jumping bride?
Image via YouTube