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The Cobain’s Suicide Note Shirts, Are They Exploitative?


Would you wear a suicide note?

I saw this t-shirt all over the internet on Tuesday afternoon, actually two kinds of shirts, a white one worn by this sexy underaged girl (above) and another one, baseball style sold on eBay… they were both showing Kurt Cobain’s suicide letter and apparently they have all disappeared from sales because of the web brouhaha and the indignation that they triggered all over Reddit-eBay-Etsy and the entire blogosphere! But don’t worry, I am sure they will reappear somewhere soon, actually there is already one here, and I can’t bother spending more time looking for more sites, but if you really want it, you’ll find it.

According to the Reddit thread, this is certainly nothing new, a similar shirt has been around for decades and probably a young guy got the idea to reprint a bunch of them to make a few bucks. But is this really disrespectful? Everybody seem to think so, but I am not so sure…. After all, the note is widely available on the internet and making $20 off this shirt or another one showing Cobain’s face is not really different. Both of them involved about zero creativity and both of them exploit people’s fascination and admiration for a rockstar who died too young. I know the suicide letter is a bit more in-your-face than your usual Nirvana shirt, but so many people have made money off dead rockstars (or other religious martyrs) that I am not surprised at all!

So to all the people who sent emails to Etsy and eBay to complain about this, don’t you have better things to do in the middle of the day? Oh but they were saying, ‘what if you meet Frances Cobain while wearing this shirt and she gets upset’? Yeah, because you meet her at Trader Joe’s every Saturday morning! Plus the girl has Courtney Love for mother, she has seen the most tacky, bad taste, brutal things that can exist, so this is not a valid argument.

Strangely, the same week I stumbled (again) on these ‘Elliott Smith was murdered’ shirts also sold on Etsy, and I wondered, is this the same thing? Well, not really! There is a message and a certain risk involved in the selling of these Elliott shirts, so I would not put them in the same ‘exploitation-of-the-death-of-a-rockstar’ bag, but it’s weird how the after-lives of these two keep bumping into each other.

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