By Gabby Curran
As someone who grew up with Glee, I was stunned to learn that Mark Salling, who played Noah “Puck” Puckerman from 2009 to 2015, had hung himself last Tuesday, January 30th.
While Salling’s suicide might come as a shock to those who haven’t been following his career as of late, it comes as no surprise to those who have. In May 2016, Salling was indicted on several counts of possession of child pornography after sexualized photos and videos, some depicting children as young as three in violent and abusive situations, were found in his home the previous December. Salling was arrested shortly after the footage was discovered, but he was released on bail soon afterwards. Salling turned himself in the following June, and was subsequently tried for his crimes. He pleaded guilty in October 2017 and was set to serve at least four years in prison starting in March of this year. Upsettingly, in the wake of Salling’s suicide, charges against Salling have been dropped, and any compensation his victims and their families would have received has been revoked for the time being.
There’s no doubt that Salling was a pedophile, and a vile one at that (not that there could be any other kind). That he pleaded guilty and turned himself in to the authorities following his bail does not exonerate him of his crimes. Salling absolutely should have gone to jail and faced any and all consequences for what he did. Nevertheless, no one would argue that suicide was the right way to deal with his problems. Surely no one would hail his suicide as a correct course of action. Right?
From Twitter to Tumblr, from news sites to forums, comments abound celebrating Salling’s suicide and upholding it as some form of justice and retribution. On Billboard’s article addressing Salling’s death, comments like “child porn is child porn, enjoy Hell boys” and “[Pedophiles] deserve no justice or rights, only death” can be found, many of which are clearly supported by other readers who frequent the site. Tumblr by far had some of the most aggressive and outspoken responses to Salling’s suicide, with users posting such things as “Not a single fucking inch of value has been lost. In fact, good fucking riddance”, “Mark Salling is dead and I can’t wait for Woody Allen to be next”, and “I’d say I feel sorry for him [Salling] but I don’t in the slightest. It’s just a shame he won’t have to suffer.” Anyone who shows any empathy towards Salling or his predicament is immediately labeled an apologist.
But celebrating the fact that Salling killed himself does far more harm than good. By treating Salling’s suicide as a justified one, you aren’t helping his victims in any way. You aren’t bringing them justice. What you are doing is perpetuating the notion that suicide is the right way to deal with things. You are treating suicide like it is an appropriate answer to the question, “How should I face the consequences of my actions?” You are validating how he dealt with his problems – by running away from them – and in the process worsening the damage he’d already done.
You don’t need to (and shouldn’t) erase Salling’s vile behavior to feel some shred of sympathy for the despair he undoubtedly felt moments before he took his own life. You don’t need to justify his actions in order to say that what he did was tragic. What you do need to do is stop treating his suicide like it was what was best for him and his victims, because it wasn’t. The fact that his victims will no longer be getting any sort of compensation––or closure––is all the proof you need to see that Salling’s suicide is far from something to be celebrated.