by Mary Harrington
Monday, 28
November 2022
Reaction
13:10

Now fashion retailer Simons promotes euthanasia

After Balenciaga, more publicity campaigns are taking a disturbing turn
by Mary Harrington
Screengrab from Simons’s ‘All is beauty’ campaign

Fashion has been smashing taboos since Coco Chanel first marketed trousers to women after World War I. But today there are very few norms left to assault in pursuit of publicity-generating controversy. So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised to find the rag trade venturing into truly taboo territory: paedophilia and now suicide — albeit with a fig-leaf of liberal proceduralism, in its guise as medically-assisted voluntary euthanasia.

Last week, fashion brand Balenciaga triggered considerable controversy when an ad campaign featuring young children holding teddy bears dressed in bondage gear hit the headlines. Not to be outdone, Canadian fashion retailer Simons is the source of this week’s fashion rage-clicks, with a video celebrating euthanasia.


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The video, titled ‘All Is Beauty’, features ‘Jennyfer’, a terminally ill woman who in October this year opted for Canada’s now widespread euthanasia programme. This has seen doctor-assisted self-deletion grow from 2.5% of all Canadian deaths in 2020 to 3.3% in 2021: in 2021 euthanasia accounted for almost 5% of all deaths in Quebec and British Columbia. But apparently it needs promotion, too: the video feels like an advert for this way of ending your life. It’s styled in heavily boho-consumerist terms, compiling the kind of footage — oceans, bubble-blowing, convivial mealtimes, glowing lanterns — you’d expect in a bourgeois holiday let ad. These, though, are combined with audio voiceover from interviews with Jennyfer herself (who was a real person) in which she talks about seeing beauty in everything even as she plans to end her own life.

Peter Simons, who stepped down as CEO in March, doesn’t appear to see anything wrong with producing glossy holiday brochure-type adverts that present killing yourself as a way of celebrating life. When the campaign launched, he told the advertising trade press in October that it was “an effort to use our freedom, our voice, and the privilege we have to speak and create every day in a way that is more about human connection.” Using his company’s resources and platform to make euthanasia adverts, is, he suggests, a positive act of corporate social responsibility, saying: “companies have a responsibility to participate in communities and to help build the communities that we want to live in tomorrow, and leave to our children.”

The mind shies away from imagining in detail the kind of ‘community’ that high fashion would ‘leave to our children’, based on Simons’s and Balenciaga’s marketing output. But lest anyone be tempted to see this as a sinister conspiracy, it could simply be explained in terms of brute commercial calculation. For as long as you don’t mind a bit of blowback, mining taboos remains an effective marketing strategy.

While Balenciaga has apologised for paedo-whistling in photoshoots, a cynic might observe that in terms of pure profile-raising, the campaign has been a roaring success. And Simons says his company’s promotion of euthanasia is “obviously not a commercial campaign”, but corporations aren’t generally noted for deliberately doing things likely to reduce shareholder profits. It’s probably a safe bet that people who are seriously contemplating asking a doctor to help them end their own life are not also in the market for a Vivienne Westwood tweed bomber jacket. Meanwhile, the Simons video has been viewed a million times.

So this is another company garnering clicks and liberal cachet from taking a stand in favour of ‘freedom’, even the freedom to end your own life. No wonder, then, that the taboo-smashing ratchet goes on, aestheticising all-out war on the prohibitions that uphold our humanist settlement, even when the only ones left are child sexual abuse and choosing to end your own life. It’s at least a century too late, though, to wonder how many of the other taboos whose smoking rubble we now call ‘culture’ were also standing between us and profound darkness.

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Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
2 months ago

Powerful concluding sentence.

Max Price
Max Price
1 month ago

Whatever ones view on assisted suicide we should be able to agree that using the issue to make a buck is grotesque.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 months ago

Like any ‘procedure’, legally permitted euthanasia has been shown to be abused where it is permitted, with older people being encouraged, or feeling pressured, to end their lives. Could we accept any level of such abuse in our culture? I don’t think so.

Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Oh, I think so. Eventually.

Kate Heusser
Kate Heusser
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

We aren’t that far off.We’re being softened up by the constant barrage of ‘news reports’ aboout the problem that elderly patients cause for the NHS, about ‘bed-blockers’, how the country can’t ‘afford’ to pay a state pension that, as promised when our current octogenarians, and their employers, started handing over their Ni contributions as15-year-olds, would be enough to live on with dignity in their old age. Now we have happy pensioners in ad campaigns telling us how they ‘don’t want their loved ones to have to worry’ about a funeral and would rather they kept the money for something fun!
As a teenager, I was given Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ to study. Now, I fear, we’re being groomed to live in it!

John Sullivan
John Sullivan
1 month ago

Nothing is shocking any more – just the way the Long March neo-Marxists always wanted it.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 month ago

Good article.
Currently, the UK is considering legislating to make it legal to kill off unproductive people, notably the old and the sick and those in terminal pain.
This is an instance where a law’s primary importance is its role as a cultural catalyst in the post-Christian West’s reversion to its former death culture. I’ve helped care for relatives before their deaths. As anyone who has experience of such caring knows well, DNR and DNF notices are commonplace when someone is approaching the end. That is, de facto, assisted dying already exists. It’s just that there is not a culture of encouraging it. Legislating for it will have a powerful cultural effect. For instance, in a related context, abortion always sells itself by reference to the hard cases of rape, likely major birth defects and risk to the health of the Mother; yet the majority of abortions are not done for such reasons, but are done for reasons of convenience or poverty. Similarly, while the incurable pain narrative will loom large in the euthanasia debate, the unintended reality will be vulnerable elderly people (who aren’t in unbearable pain) being murdered by lazy and greedy younger relatives.
Face facts, folks. Humans aren’t generally sufficiently noble to withstand the temptations and opportunities of state-sanctioned senicide, and you may be a little naive if you think otherwise.

Kate Heusser
Kate Heusser
1 month ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

The UK has considered the issue repeatedly – and always backed away even from decriminalising assistance for suicide.

Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
1 month ago

Oh how I long for the days when corporations were merely greedy capitalists with no concern whatever for social wellbeing.

Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
1 month ago
Reply to  Betsy Arehart

In other words, they didn’t transgress their bounds.

Eliza Mann
Eliza Mann
1 month ago

I saw the ad, and it was very disturbing, as it glorified killing oneself as an act of beauty. Furthermore, it wasn’t clear from the ad whether the young woman depicted was terminally ill. As VE grows, more elderly people will feel a subtle pressure to end their lives, so as not to be a burden on others. Choosing to live out one’s full life span will be considered by many to be a selfish act. (This is one issue for which I’m actually glad that so many American politicians are extremely old! I hope they will help us resist this trend.) We need to return to a culture of life, found in our Christian heritage.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 month ago

When one flies to Switzerland to one of those clinics, which ” terminal” do you go to?

Annette Howey
Annette Howey
1 month ago

Canada is now also working on legislation for minors to VE and babies up to 1 year old. According to some reasoning I see here, they are as useless as the oldies. Slippery slope, my friends.

jonathan carter-meggs
jonathan carter-meggs
1 month ago

Perverts have escaped again.

Shale Lewis
Shale Lewis
1 month ago

Anyone remember the old Benetton ads featuring AIDS patients?

Tim Karlet
Tim Karlet
1 month ago

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Last edited 1 month ago by Tim Karlet
landon laynch
landon laynch
1 month ago

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Chris W
Chris W
2 months ago

As Stephen Walsh says, a powerful concluding sentence.

But I am not trolling and am sincere. Why are there any taboos about discussion of volutary euthanasia (VE)? We can’t have free speech on the one hand and a series of taboos on the other.

If we have free speech we should be able to discuss VE and those who choose VE should be allowed to do so. This country and others in Europe have too many old people. How can new generations cope with millions and millions of people clogging up the system? Will getting rid of the Tories sort out our problems?

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 months ago
Reply to  Chris W

I am happy to see discussion of VE or even VD but I am surprised to see it coupled with getting rid of the Tories. Is the Labour Party planning a euthanasia campaign. Encourage old Tories to die!

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

The Remainers did keep gloating about how old people dying would change the balance of voting for a second referendum – and took some joy in the fatal effects of Covid on the elderly who predominantly voted for Brexit. So yes, I’d suggest euthanasia is favoured by the left to get round democracy.

Last edited 2 months ago by Ian Stewart
Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Hadn’t thought about that angle, but you’ve got a point.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 months ago
Reply to  Chris W

This country and others in Europe have too many old people. How can new generations cope with millions and millions of people clogging up the system?
I was with you until I saw these two sentences. References to people clogging up the system read like some old sloughed of hair in the plug hole – wholly dehumanising; with this thinking I wonder when VE will become CE.

Brett H
Brett H
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris W

There’s nothing wrong with an open discussion on voluntary euthanasia, but when it slides off in a particular direction, as it has with gender dysphasia, then some response is required. Comments about the cost of an ageing generation are common these days, and whether they are a drain on the system and the younger generation; their lives no longer have value, therefore why continue to care for them. But what next, remove the disabled, the mentally ill, or anyone who doesn’t contribute? This tolerance towards “discussion” is a slippery slope.
“This country and others in Europe have too many old people.”
Thats a dangerous statement. What’s old? What happens if, in time, old is anyone over 50? Is old anyone that doesn’t work? Or have money? What if you’re old but still earn some money? How much is enough? You know where this sort of thinking leads. It’s not as if you haven’t seen it put into practice before.

Last edited 1 month ago by Brett H
Max Price
Max Price
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris W

As soon as the argument becomes about too many “old people” to many sick people, to many criminals, to many addicts it get very dark.
As to the argument about easing suffering in theory it sounds benign but in practice coercion occurs. The kids waiting for their inheritance, the cold spouse who’s tired of caring for sick partner.

Brett H
Brett H
1 month ago
Reply to  Max Price

A thought worse then what you imagine; would you have government manage and regulate it or private business? Both could not be trusted.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris W

My mother is 95 and fit as a fiddle. Is she one of your ‘too many old people’?

JP Martin
JP Martin
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

And unlike the illegal “migrants” who receive free healthcare courtesy of the NHS and squat in private hotels at the public’s expense, your mother has contributed to the country’s finances over the course of her 95 years!

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris W

You would prefer they all just line up for Saul’s death daffodils in “Soylent Green” based on how they vote? Yikes. No wonder our dystopian sci-fi novels are all coming true.

jonathan carter-meggs
jonathan carter-meggs
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris W

This article is part of the discussion and proposes that fashion advertising is not the way such topics should be socialised. I personally feel that humans have difficulty staying between the ropes and recently the ropes have been taken down leading to a free for all. Humans are also easily led, the ropes were useful because of that.

Phyllis Bradshaw
Phyllis Bradshaw
1 month ago

I hesitate to suggest that human beings collude in groups to hurt other groups of human beings (no irony about war intended), but what if the push for euthanasia is a way of erasing something sinister? What if being sexually occupied as a child by an adult sets you on a course of poverty (for myriad reasons) and dying “comfortably” (for the formerly occupied) sounds better than homelessness?

Last edited 1 month ago by Phyllis Bradshaw