The 1978 film The Deer Hunter is a powerful, disturbing, and compelling look at the Vietnam War through the lives of three friends before, during and after their service in the war. Inone of its most memorable scenes, Vietnamese captors wager on the fate of American soldiers forced to play Russian roulette, a game of chance in which the player points a gun housing only one bulletat his own head 8or someone else’s) and pulls the trigger. If the hammer strikes an empty chamber all is well, but if it finds the one with a bullet, a life is ended.
Something in this movies spoketo people, both to those honestly shivering on the verge of suicide yet needing one last push in the form of intervention by the hand of fate , and those temporarily rendered deaf to the voice ofreason by the fatalistic appeal of playing games with the Grim Reaper. Whatever the motivation, showings of the Deer Hunter inspired a number of boys and men to take their own lives in this fashion. Thevictims included both those fully intending to off themselves and those it later turned out were just messing with what struck them and their buddies at the time as a cool idea. All were suicides,although it is to be granted that some were (mostly) unplanned.
The full body count attributable to the Deer Hunter suicides will likely never be known because often such deaths are solitary affairs,leaving no one around to explain what influenced the deceased to take his life. Some have attempted to take measure of this phenomenon, including Dr. Tomas Radecki, a psychiatrist who often spoke onbehalf of the national coalition on TV Violence and who in 1981 stated there had been 28 shootings and 25 confirmed Russian roulette deaths in the United States involving persons who watched the movieon television or videotapes. In 1989, columnist Paul Simon was quoted in a Louisville Courier – Journal article as stating that this number was then up to 35.
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