Calling Russell Armstrong's Death 'Murder' Is Just Wrong

Every news item about Russell Armstrong since his suicide on August 15 has been disturbing to read. From the allegations that he committed domestic violence against his wife, Taylor Armstrong of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, to the discussions of how Bravo will address his death in the upcoming RHOBH season. Much has been made about the dehumanizing effects of reality television, and I tend to agree—this should be a major wake-up call for any would-be reality star hoping to land the soul-sucking opportunity to stage their life for a TV show.

At the same time, I think all the finger-pointing needs to come to an end. Armstrong's mother, John Ann Hotchkiss, recently spoke out about Bravo's decision to air taped commentary on the suicide from the RHOBH cast members, and it's clear she blames the network for her son's death. In fact, she goes so far as to say he was murdered.

A grown man made the deliberate decision to take his own life, and this is murder? I don't think so.


In a statement about the upcoming RHOBH premiere episode, Hotchkiss said,

When I was informed of this, I thought, "I hope Bravo will take the high road and keep it tasteful." Let's not murder my son twice.

As a parent, I cannot think of anything more tragic than my child choosing to end his own life. I can only imagine how devastated she is, and how in a situation like that, you'd be desperate to assign blame to someone—anyone—other than your own flesh and blood.

There are plenty of reports that Armstrong was profoundly affected by the show, and not in a good way. His friend William Ratner said the show was "his downfall," and that it "put a lot of pressure on him to produce financially." Armstrong's lawyer said, "These couples join these shows, and then they keep trying to outdo each other and they end up spending all their money trying to sustain a lifestyle that's unrealistic and wasn't there prior to the show."

It's possible he didn't know what he was getting into when he agreed to do the show, it's possible things that happened in the editing room portrayed him in a certain way he felt he couldn't live with. But does he not bear the responsibility for his actions? For deciding to be part of a reality show that's known for dramatizing troubled marriages, for valuing money and prestige so highly, and ultimately, for committing suicide?

I think Bravo should take a good, hard look at what they're contributing to the world with this sort of entertainment, and the environment they're encouraging for the sake of ratings. I also think if an adult is willing to take part in the farce that is reality television, you can't really blame the cameras if their lives are impacted in a negative way.

It seems to me that the Real Housewives franchise is custom-designed to attract miserable people who think money and possessions can buy their happiness. It's set up to portray drama, battles, tears, and hateful comments. Don't like it? Don't watch it. That's the most powerful message anyone can send, if we want to see changes to the format.

In the meantime, the one person who's truly responsible for Russell Armstrong's death is Russell Armstrong. A horrible tragedy, but not one we can lay at the feet of television producers.

Do you think Bravo is responsible for Russell Armstrong's death?

Image via Bravo

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