"'Cause suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please"
—'"Suicide is Painless"
, from M*A*S*H
The opposite of Driven to Suicide
. A character is just tired of life, wants to see what death is like, or knows he only has a short time to live anyway, or is just plain crazy. So, usually while sporting a huge smile, they kill themselves, often by jumping off of a building. Either played straight for creepy effect to establish how out of touch a character is with reality, or alternately used in Black Comedy
See also Nothing Left to Do but Die
ahead, since this is one of the Death Tropes
. Ironically, the trope namer, the 1970 film M*A*S*H
, actually averts the trope by being featured in a scene in which the intent is to prevent
If you are here for a different reason, it is worth pointing out that there is no entirely painless, 100% reliable suicide method. If you are thinking of killing yourself, please, talk to someone; anyone
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Anime and Manga
- In the first few minutes of the first episode of Serial Experiments Lain, Chisa Yomoda jumps to her death after dramatically taking off her glasses and hanging off the railing for a moment. It also succeeds in setting the tone for the rest of the series. When she shows up later in the series, she complains that dying really hurts. Yeah, it's that kind of show.
- Shiba from Zombie Loan did the same thing just because he was bored with life, and wound up being the undead Big Bad of a Story Arc.
- Near the end of the manga it's revealed that he was the result of a fertility drug experiment that resulted in kids so apathetic about life that most of them committed suicide at an early age. Shuuji is another one of the kids (shown when he's attacked by a zombie and rescued by his future A-Loan comrades, and doesn't really seem to care,) as well as protagonist Michiru, as evident in one scene early in the manga when she talks about not caring whether she lives or dies.
- An example where the person doesn't quite go through with it is in the movie version of Vision of Escaflowne where Hitomi contemplates killing herself at the beginning for no other apparent reason than being bored.
- One character in Martian Successor Nadesico, after going crazy and piloting his mech into a suicidal situation, sings the theme song from the Show Within a Show Gekiganger 3 in one of the most disturbing scenes in the show.
- The Paranoia Agent episode "Happy Family Planning" features three characters who met online trying to kill themselves unsuccessfully. They eventually resort to chasing Shonen Bat/Lil' Slugger down, begging to die. By the end of the episode all three have died without realizing it, though exactly when this happens for all three is left intentionally ambiguous. The final scene shows them realizing their deaths, laughing in joy, and walking down the street as ghosts, singing a cheery tune.
- The first movie of Kara no Kyoukai has to do with this, as half a dozen schoolgirls throw themselves off of an abandoned building seemingly without reason. In the end, the one who's been astrally projecting herself from her hospital bed and is responsible does the same thing.
- In Alive: The Final Evolution those infected by the suicide virus behave this way.
- This is complicated by the fact that two entities are dying every time this happens: the suicidal Energy Being that actually wants to die but can't because it previously chose to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, and the hapless human Meat Puppet who's been infected by this desire. So the people committing suicide have literally no reason for it. In fact, the people with the best internal motivations are the ones most likely to survive, because of the 'holes in their hearts.'
- This is Maiza's reasoning for approaching Firo and asking the kid to kill him (more specifically, he's both Seen It All and finally received closure over his Dead Little Brother) at the end of the first arc of Baccano!!. Firo's response is to nod, smile...and then give a number of entirely bullshit reasons for why he can't do that, Dave, before admitting that he really just doesn't want to lose his mentor.
- An early story in The Sandman features an old DCU superhero, Element Girl, who has come to loathe her immortality, and quotes the song at the top of the page directly in begging Death to help her die.
- This is why Dracula tries to kill Ben Franklin II, and later Dr McNinja, in order to send them ahead in to the afterlife as scouts before trying it out himself.
- Eric lets Funboy, one of the thugs he returned from the dead to kill, die from a massive, self-inflicted drug overdose as a reward for being cooperative in The Crow. (Not so much in the movie.)
- In Great Lakes Avengers, Mr. Immortal has the power that grants him his name, and at least one plot was resolved by him blowing his brains out, knowing he'd shortly resurrect.
- As noted above the trope-namer is the theme song to the original M*A*S*H film. However the context in which the song is featured averts the trope as it's performed during a scene in which "Painless" - the nickname for the 4077th dentist - contemplates suicide due to his fears of having become a homosexual, but his colleagues successfully prevent this by staging a mock suicide ritual/funeral (during which the song is sung; Altman ensured that the lyrics would have an appropriately mawkish tone by assigning the task to his fifteen-year old son) which leads to Painless spending a night with a nurse, restoring his faith in his "manhood."
- The quintessential example is probably the Japanese movie Suicide Club which features, among other things, the image of fifty-four schoolgirls from eighteen schools linking hands and smiling before jumping onto train tracks to their deaths. In the first minutes of the movie.
- The movie Flatliners is entirely based around this concept and the people who intentionally enter a death-like state.
- The film The End is a dark dark dark comic take on this subject. Burt Reynolds plays a man who finds out he only has six months to live and wants to off himself before any serious pain sets in. Dom De Luise is the delusional mental patient who gleefully volunteers to help him. In the end Burt decides not to go through with his suicide, but Dom's character doesn't believe him and won't give up trying to kill him (even during the ending credits.)
- The Odd Job, featuring a post-Monty Python Graham Chapman, has a similar plot (though in this case he considers suicide due to a breakup with his wife— and then reconciles but can't find the man he hired to kill him). Interestingly, both were released the same year (1978).
- A black-comedy variant, 1990's Short Time, stars Dabney Coleman as a police officer who learns he has a terminal disease and attempts to get himself killed in the line of duty so his family can collect the life insurance. None of his attempts are successful, which turns out to be a good thing since the diagnosis turns out to have been erroneous.
- The finale of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon appears to involve this in mimicry of a legend earlier told, except that it's been established that the character in question can fly, and she's seen again in a sequel.
- In Batman Forever, Edward Nygma hacks Wayne Industries' video feed to cover up his murdering his boss, and he edits the video to make it seem he commits suicide this way.
- In The Dark Knight, when The Joker is thrown off of a building, he starts laughing. Then when he is saved by Batman, he's actually incredibly disappointed. In a variation, his pleasure was due more to his desire to corrupt Batman by tempting him to break his no-kill rule, rather than wanting to die.
- Although it's pretty obvious that The Joker has no concern whatsoever about his own wellbeing, and genuinely doesn't care if he lives or dies.
- In The Godfather Part II, Tom Hagen tells Frank Pentangeli the story about Petronius (see Real Life below) and advises him to imitate it rather than be violently murdered. However, the scene in the bathroom later is rather messier than the story implied.
- In Ken Park, the movie opens with the titular character making his way to a skate park, setting up a camera and filming his own, smiling, suicide.
- In Inception, Mal invokes this trope after she loses her mind in Limbo, and attempts to get Cobb to either do the same or be framed for her death.
- Harold and Maude:
- Harold is a teenager with morbid interests and his suicide stagings look incredibly real. Subverted again and again and again and again... and again.
- Maude thinks that dying before eighty would be too early, but dying after eighty would be overstaying her welcome. She poisons herself on her eightieth birthday.
- In Cas And Dylan, Dr. Cas Pepper is facing certain death from an inoperable brain tumor, and sets out on a cross-country trip to check himself out on his own terms. Despite the presense of Manic Pixie Dream Girl Dylan Morgan as a traveling companion, Cas still goes through with his suicide. (Also a literal example of this trope: he rigs a Jack Kevorkian-style IV drip to slowly, gently ease him into death.)
- H. Beam Piper wrote a story titled "Last Enemy," about a culture that had accepted reincarnation as a scientifically proven fact. As a result, they'd developed a rather different attitude toward death — it was, at worst, a (temporary) inconvenience; often enough, it was a social event. "Evidently when the Akor-Neb people get tired of their current reincarnation they invite in their friends, throw a big party, and then do themselves in in an atmosphere of general conviviality."
- Subverted in Dostoyevsky's The Possessed; sympathetic (if batshit insane) nihilist Kirillov, Well-Intentioned Extremist and Anti-Villain, wants to kill himself for his own philosophical reasons, and wants his suicide to be a serene, noble apotheosis. Everything is prepared, and he has been anxiously waiting for the right moment since years. However, when the time comes he hesitates. Petr Stepanovic, who needs his death for his own diabolical schemes, tries to kill him, and fails; Kirillov, humiliated and disgusted for his own cowardice, finally shoots himself. His death lets Petr Stepanovic pull a Karma Houdini.
- In Richard Hooker's M*A*S*H, "Painless Pole" Waldowski decides to commit suicide during one of his frequent attacks of depression, and the rest of the camp pitches in to "assist" him. Subverted, in that he doesn't actually die.
- A common cause of death in The Culture: some people are immortal and almost everyone lives for hundreds of years.... but when they feel that they've seen it all, they typically decided to end their lives painlessly.
- In Dream Science, a novel about people who have somehow become detached from normal reality into a fractured group of partial alternate reality scenes (some apparently-normal alternate worlds, but also things like an office in a square hallway that has no exit, or an endless department store), death only sends these people into a new reality. After a while, people who are bored with their current world or can't find another way out tend to just kill themselves.
- In the Doctor Who Eighth Doctor Adventures novel Interference, Fitz gets a severe case of the Cloning Blues: separated from the Doctor, he's had to take up with a group of people who, after their members die, will just make a new one. Later copies become more and more simplified, but he theorizes that they all have a significant part of the person's personality at the time they were first copied in them, and he doesn't live indefinitely with a personality he's developed after decades on a planet he doesn't much like. So he decides to jump off a building... but he decides to take advantage of the fact you can take it or leave it if you please and doesn't go through with it.
- Since everyone has Resurrective Immortality, "suiciding" is a frequently-used way to get a new body in Biting the Sun.
- Similarly, in Riverworld, riding "the Suicide Express" is a good way to travel rapidly (if randomly) along the River.
- Taken Up to Eleven in Barrington J Bayley's The Fall Of Chronopolis. A hard-boiled timeship captain, facing the total collapse of the space-time continuum around him, jumps into "the strat" (which inescapably Drives Men Mad) after remarking that he has always wondered what it is like.
- Henryk Sienkiewicz's dramatization of Petronius' death who was forced to suicide by Nero, in his novel Quo Vadis, imagines a letter to Nero of equal parts wit and snark, almost savaging his ex-friend more for his artistic "skills" than his crimes.
"Be well, but don't sing. Kill, but don't write verses. Poison, but don't dance. Burn cities, but don't play the lyre. This is the last friendly bit of guidance you will ever get from Petronius, the arbiter of elegance."
- The Diviners 1974 : Jules Tonnere overdoses on his pain pills, to avoid dying of cancer. It's especially tragic considering Margaret Laurence likely died the same way 13 years later.
- The reason why dragons jump Between without a destination in The Dragonriders Of Pern if their rider dies. Dragon-rider bonds are so strong that, once the rider has died (or even if the dragon thinks the rider is dead) then the dragon considers jumping into nothingness preferable to still living.
Live Action TV
- In the House episode "97 Seconds", House sticks a knife in an electrical socket so he can have a near-death experience and prove there is no afterlife after one patient claims his experience was proof and mocks House's skepticism as a lack of a similar experience. Besides being just plain weird, it's also very out of character for a man who already has had two near-death experiences. At least he sent a page to a fellow doctor to make sure he'd be revived. Hell probably would have sent him back anyway.
- Life On Mars: The famous — and famously controversial — series finale had Sam waking up in the real world and going back to his old job... only to realize that the world of 2006/07 is lifeless compared to the 1973 of the mind, and then to calmly get up, excuse himself from a meeting, and take a flying leap from the roof of the police station in an attempt to get back. He seems to succeed.
- Battlestar Galactica: Dualla, after the disappointing discovery of a ruined Earth, finds comfort with her ex-husband Lee, celebrates his big speech, goes back to her bunk, smiling and humming a little tune, admonishes Gaeta for trying to bring her down, then takes off her ring, hangs it up, and still humming and grinning, shoots herself in the head.
- In LOST season 4, Regina wraps herself in chains and casually jumps off the freighter. It is implied she's not the only freightie to commit suicide lately.
- An episode of Farscape introduced a tribe of young hedonists who celebrate their 22nd birthdays by hurling themselves off a cliff- AKA "Taking The Stone". It's eventually revealed that the alternative is to spend the rest of their lives outcast and dying from cumulative radiation poisoning, so most of the tribes people hit the ground with a smile on their faces. Their friends still mourn for the dead, but it's such an ingrained part of their culture that they choose to keep "taking the stone" even when presented with an alternative.
- In Season 4 of Rescue Me, after Chief Reilly is taken off active duty following a heart attack, he ties up all his affairs, including making peace with his homosexual son, then puts on a nice shirt, combs his hair, and commits suicide by revolver.
- In Season Two of True Blood, Godric tired of his existence and allowed himself to be captured by the anti-vampire fanatic group The Fellowship of the Sun, hoping that his death would help bring about reconciliation between humans and vampires. After he is rescued by Sookie and Eric, he tries briefly to hide his reasons for allowing his capture, but eventually confesses that he is tired of living. He later kills himself by 'meeting the sun' on a rooftop, bursting into flame and crumbling into dust.
- Moriarty follows this trope in the Series Two finale of Sherlock.
- Ted from Scrubs tries (and fails) several times to commit suicide by jumping off of the roof of the hospital. When he falls off accidentally, he laughs and smiles (which rarely happens), shouting "here comes sweet relief" as he's falling. He doesn't die though-instead he lands on a lower roof that is filled with garbage. The janitor tells him if he had fallen off the other side of the roof, he would have hit the ground and died.
- In Repulsive Food Eater Conchita by mothy, it's not clear whether Conchita was truly on the brink of starvation or if her appetite was just too hard to ignore, but she ends up eating herself because she's the last "edible" meal left in her castle. She actually seems rather pleased that she got to taste everything in the world.
- "What The Water Gave Me" by Florence + the Machine is about a girl who willfully succumbs to drowning in the ocean.
- Heavily implied with Joshua in The World Ends with You, who could apparently see the Reapers' Game (a sort of active and battle-focused Chess with Death) when he was alive, and claims that life "was one giant bore." Later he even says "I'm here because I want to be," apparently sealing the matter, until it turns out he's the Composer, who runs the Game, and we don't know if he's alive or dead, or even if he was ever mortal in the first place.
- Due, again, to Resurrective Immortality, pilots in EVE Online may fast-travel by setting their clone to a location near their desired destination, then self-destructing their escape capsule to bask briefly in hard vacuum.
- In the Brie Meighsaton House arc of Sluggy Freelance, the house is haunted by several ghosts, including a former owner who was tormented by the other ghosts until driven to suicide. He didn't commit suicide to escape the ghosts - he did it so he could become a ghost himself, able to physically punish them for what they've done.
- Bashful, in the side arcs: "I think that's why I'm [in Hell]. My parents didn't want me to have any fun, and I was gonna have to marry some boring snotty chick when we both turned eighteen. So I found a way out!" Apparently he drove a car off a cliff. He looks back on the incident fondly, as he merely considers it an adventure/extreme sport. Unfortunately, as he's recently revealed, he did this while his fiancée was also in the car, which is why he's in Hell. However, regardless of what he did he'd probably have ended up in Hell anyway; in Jack, suicide for any reason is a one-way ticket.
- Lita kills herself knowing that suicide is a guaranteed ticket to Hell, for the sake of hunting down her father and killing him (again). She doesn't know he's now the Anthropomorphic Personification of the Sin of Lust.
- Tnemrot has Angel, who would rather be killed than return to her master.
- “No man ever threw away life while it was worth keeping.” ― David Hume, Essays on Suicide and the Immortality of the Soul
- The suicide note left by the actor George Sanders attributed his actions to simple boredom.
- Hunter S. Thompson in his famous suicide note (titled "Football Season Is Over"). He was known to have painful, progressive health problems, and life had gotten boring because he wasn't able to do what he used to.
"No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun - for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax - This won't hurt..."
- Timothy Leary (although he didn't commit suicide) recommended suicide for boredom.
- George Eastman, founder of Eastman Kodak, had a suicide note that read, in total, "Dear friends: My work is done. Why wait?"
- The Roman historian Tacitus describes the suicide of Petronius this way - although it was forced on him by Nero, he uses the opportunity to say "screw you" to the emperor:
Yet he did not fling away life with precipitate haste, but having made an incision in his veins and then, according to his humour, bound them up, he again opened them, while he conversed with his friends, not in a serious strain or on topics that might win for him the glory of courage. And he listened to them as they repeated, not thoughts on the immortality of the soul or on the theories of philosophers, but light poetry and playful verses. To some of his slaves he gave liberal presents, a flogging to others. He dined, indulged himself in sleep, that death, though forced on him, might have a natural appearance. Even in his will he did not, as did many in their last moments, flatter Nero or Tigellinus or any other of the men in power. On the contrary, he described fully the prince's shameful excesses, with the names of his male and female companions and their novelties in debauchery, and sent the account under seal to Nero.
- This married couple in their thirties seemed to have just seen it all. Obviously, there may be some other reason they didn't want to mention, but to take their note at face value, they'd lived wonderful, happy lives together, seen and done everything they wanted to, and were simply ready to leave. No hint of some source of angst in their note, or in anything their friends or families knew of their lives.
- It's well documented that many people who commit suicide after being depressed for a long period of time often seem to be at peace right before killing themselves, because making the decision gives them a sense of finality. The result is that those left behind are often shocked, especially if the person suddenly appeared to be getting better before their death.