Goodbye, Cruel World
"Goodbye, cruel world
—Pink Floyd, Goodbye Cruel World
The suicide note. May lead to an Interrupted Suicide Just in Time. May be in the form of a Video Will. It could even be part of the elaborate facade involved in Faking the Dead or covering up a murder. In a murder mystery, it's often found to be forged in some way by our local Amateur Sleuth. The lack of a suicide note will immediately and in all cases prompt law enforcement to suspect that the death is not a suicide even if suicide appears obvious; in this case, the real cause of death will usually be homicide, accident, or natural causes.
Not as much Truth in Television as some might assume. This trope has led many people to believe that every suicide victim leaves a note, and conversely that if there isn't a note it can't have been suicide. An approximate guess is that fewer than one-third of suicide victims in the United States leave notes, and the older the victim is the less likely he or she will leave a note. Whether this is because older people have outlived their families or because younger people have learned from this trope that they 'should' leave a note is unknown, since it's tough to ask a victim of suicide. Younger victims seem more likely to leave a note if a celebrity has done so in the very recent past.
Even so, fewer than half of young American suicide victims leave notes, and it's only a very small percentage of them who leave suicide videos, so don't expect the lack of a suicide note to send the cops out looking for a murderer in Real Life. Outside of the US (even in Canada and the UK), suicide notes are even less common.
As a Death Trope, Spoilers ahead may be unmarked. Beware.
Anime and Manga
- From Welcome to The NHK: Misaki spends most of the next-to-last episode talking to Satou about suicide notes, and particularly about one famous suicide note where the writer complimented his parents' cooking. She leaves a suicide note of that form on her bed ("The New Year's grated yams were delicious. So to everybody, goodbye."), which is Satou's cue to start looking for her.
- The Death Note can control the circumstances of its victims' deaths, so Light, while testing the limits of this ability, kills several people, controlling them to write "suicide notes" that, combined, contain a secret message to taunt L: "Do you know gods of death love apples?"
- Lampshaded by Nathan Mahler in Blood+, who willingly allows Saya to "kill" him. He survived and became a news reporter, implying that only his loyalty to Diva died.
- Used in The Far Side cartoon by Gary Larson, often by animals. In one, two bears happen upon a stuffed bear, which has the words "Goodbye World" taped to itself ("My God! It's Larry! He stuffed himself!") Another one features a spiderweb which reads "Goodbye World" and shows a wee spider... hanging itself...from the bottom.
- A suicide note delivered over the internet is the impetus for the plot of Kimmie 66.
- In the film Kind Hearts and Coronets, one of these is essential for clearing the protagonist of a murder (ironically, practically the only death in the movie that's not his fault). Of course, it's only after he's been cleared of the murder he didn't commit that he realises he's left behind a confession -- intended to be published posthumously -- of those he did.
- Lydia in Beetlejuice has a scene where she is writing her suicide note, including proofreading it. She finishes the note but is interrupted before she can kill herself.
- In the movie Shortbus, James has been making a video about himself and his boyfriend Jamie for the last six months that turns out to be a suicide note.
- In Batman Forever, the Riddler does one ("You'll find the handwriting matches his exactly, as does sentence structure and spelling.") for a guy he killed. It consists simply of:
To: Whom It May Concern
- A variation of this trope in The Royal Tenenbaums; after Richie attempts suicide via wristcutting, he tells his family he left them a suicide note. His brother, showing his usual tact, asks "Is it dark?" "'Course it's dark, it's a suicide note."
- Trail of the Pink Panther. Young Clouseau is writing out his suicide note after having turned on the gas when there's a power blackout. So he lights a candle to see what he's writing. Cue big kaboom.
- In his special Life Is Worth Losing, George Carlin gives an example of possibly the funniest suicide note ever:
Hey guys, guess what!
- Brooks's letter to the other inmates in The Shawshank Redemption.
- J.D. and Veronica in Heathers forge these in faking the suicides of various popular high-school students.
- In Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why, Hannah leaves a series of voice recordings, to be mailed to the people who drove her to suicide.
- In Carl Hiaasen's Skinny Dip, Charles Perrone writes a fake suicide note, intending to cover his tracks as he flees the country, but karma catches up with him first.
- In A Series of Unfortunate Events, the Baudelaires find that the spelling errors in a suicide note are a secret code used by grammar addict Aunt Josephine, giving them her hiding place.
Live Action TV
- In the season 1 Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "I, Robot... You, Jane", the cyber-demon Moloch had a couple of servants in the high school's computer lab, Fritz and Dave. When Dave changed his mind about helping to kill Buffy, Moloch wrote out a fake suicide note for Dave on the computer and Fritz killed Dave.
- In the season 3 episode "Earshot", Buffy got the "aspect of the demon" of telepathy and knew that someone was going to try to kill all the students by lunchtime, but not who. They mistook Jonathan's vague suicide note (which he'd sent in advance to the school newspaper) for a sign that he was the one, and he was in a tower with a rifle, so Buffy accidentally took the time to stop his suicide before stopping the actual would-be mass murderer.
- In a third season episode of Veronica Mars, Veronica is given a Criminology assignment of planning 'the perfect murder'. She suggests faking a suicide note from the victim, using a generic phrase such as "Goodbye cruel world", typed on a computer so the note can't be analysed. Shortly afterwards, the dean of the college is murdered in exactly this way.
- Lost: Locke's suicide note, which is something of a Clingy MacGuffin for Jack, reads, "Dear Jack, I wish you had believed me." Talk about a guilt trip.
- At the end of Season One of Soap Chester tries to write a suicide note when he decides to commit suicide (Played for Laughs mind) because Jessica is about to be arrested for Peter's murder and he's about to lose pretty much everything (money and home, etc.) but he couldn't figure out the correct spelling of "suicide" and guessed that everybody would get the picture when they found him dead over a piece of kitchen roll with writing on it (because he couldn't find any paper).
- Blink-182's "Adam's Song", besides the last verse (where the boy gives up killing himself), is a suicide letter.
- Quite possibly the Trope Namer: the last song on the second side of Pink Floyd's The Wall is "Goodbye Cruel World", which - while not a suicide note - is a final message from the main character to the world before cutting all his emotional ties and going behind the Wall.
- A somewhat straighter example is the title track of their following album The Final Cut, which sounds like a suicide note, and ends with the protagonist about to slash his wrists, when the phone rings, causing him to lose his nerve.
- Averted by a much older song, "Goodbye Cruel World" by James Darren. In that song, the protagonist joins the circus rather than killing himself after "a mean, fickle woman" abandons him. (He puts clown makeup on his face so he won't be identified.)
- Jonathan Coulton's Song Blue Sunny Day is a musical version about this by a vampire.
- Five Finger Death Punch's music video for "The Bleeding" has a young woman hang herself at the end of the video with her ex-boyfriend discovering her suicide note.
- The Poetic Narrative The Singer responds to the traditional suicide note phrasing with "The world was cruel. We wondered why he felt the need to say goodbye."
- A decent number of The Smiths and later, Morrissey songs read as excellent suicide notes.
- "Videotape" by Radiohead.
- "A Quitter" by Rasputina. The title has a double meaning in french, which phonetically translates to "has left."
- "Suicide Note Pt. 1 & Pt. 2" by Pantera are both songs about a guy writing his suicide letter.
- 'Stan' from Eminem has someone try to record one of these in anger.
- The lyrics to Billy Joel's "Tomorrow is Today" are actually based on his own suicide note from when he tried to kill himself by drinking furniture polish in 1970.
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Justice For All's fourth case, a good portion of one suspect's motivation revolves around the suicide note of Celeste Inpax. It turns out that she worked for years as a manager in order to get close to the only man who could have found and stolen the missing suicide note. Over the course of the case, Phoenix ends up finding it. It turns out to be an elaborate forgery. Celeste Inpax never left a note after all.
- It's also brought up a couple times that Miles Edgeworth left behind a note saying "Prosecutor Miles Edgeworth chooses death" before he disappeared. The final case reveals he's still alive.
- In Escape from Monkey Island, you can tell Guybrush to jump off a cliff. His response is to walk to the edge of the cliff and say "Goodbye cruel adventure game! ...Eh, forget it."
- Played for Laughs in Futurama - Farnsworth has a sudden attack of Genre Savvy while recording his sort-of suicide note video (as he's about to be taken away by the "Sunset Squad" to a place where the elderly go to die):
Farnsworth: I'm sure that Bender has just made some cutting remark at my expense, but he doesn't know I taped over his soap operas to record this message.
- Before being taken away he also finds time to play with the phrase itself:
Farnsworth: Goodbye cruel world! Goodbye cruel lamp! Goodbye cruel velvet drapes with the cute little curtain-pull cords, cruel though they may be I... *Sunset Squad robot gives up waiting and knocks him out*
- Bender has a checklist form at the end of his "Cries For Attention" notes:
I'm getting a Tattoo
- Drawn Together episode Gay Bash: After Xandir had to face the truth that he is homosexual (with the result that his girlfriend, the princess who he is perpetually forced to rescue from the clutches of his various arch-enemies, tells him to get lost) he tries to commit suicide, by dramatically yelling "Goodbye, cruel world!" and stabbing himself with his sword. Unfortunately, as a video game character he is entitled to a lot of extra lives, which he has to "wear down" first before he can die. So he spends the entire night killing himself (and resurrecting mere seconds later, with the appropriate sound effect, minus one life), and growing progressively more bored and less enthusiastic about the whole thing, while the rest of the characters are vainly trying to catch some sleep. Who knew suicide could be such a chore?
- Homer Simpson attempting to jump off a bridge in an episode of The Simpsons:
Homer: Goodbye, cruel world.
- In another episode, the townspeople are attempting to break the world record for "largest human pyramid", only for them to collapse into a giant rolling ball when Jimbo and Kearney realise their hands are touching. The ball's progress ends up interrupting a random characters' suicide attempt.
"Goodbye, cruel world!" (lands on the ball) "Hello, ironic twist!"