April 13, 2024

Ava Gardner’s message for would-be suicides

Why is Melbourne so gloomy?

One of the most depressing films you could possibly see is On the Beach, a 1959 Hollywood melodrama with Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner about Melbourne after World War III (which happened in 1964). Fallout from the Northern Hemisphere, where everyone has dropped off the perch, is drifting slowly over Australia, blanketing the continent with death. The enlightened government of the day distributes free suicide pills and injections so that no one need suffer the agony of terminal radiation sickness. This policy was far ahead of its time. Dr Philip Nitschke, an Australian who is one of the world’s leading euthanasia activists, has been trying to legalise his own "peaceful pill" for years, still without success.

Anyhow, to get to the point, Ava Gardner did not enjoy Melbourne. "The perfect place to make a film about the end of the world," she is reputed to have said, a remark often repeated gleefully by residents of its rival, Sydney. Well, almost 50 years later, Melbourne’s reputation has not improved. In the whole world, according to Google Trends, it is the highest ranked city when it comes to searching for "how to commit suicide". Brisbane, another Australian city, is Number Two, and Sydney Number Four.

Dr Nitschke’s explanation for this is simple: Australia has banned pro-suicide websites. "This is an expected consequence when you limit the flow of information," he says. ~ news.com.au, May 3