Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Exhibits B and C: More Suicide References

There is a somewhat disturbing trend popular in present-day in Sylvia Plath merchandising: in an attempt to humorously spoof Plath's death, products such as Sylvia Plath ouija boards and even oven mitts are available to the diligent Googler. Meant to appear clever or cute, these products' actual effect is less than amusing.

Although it could be argued that this ouija board was inspired by Plath's haunting poem "Ouija" or the fact that she and husband Ted Hughes experimented with a ouija board during their marriage, the board is both offensive and tacky. Plath is portrayed in glaring neon colors, but the final straw is that the ouija board's planchette is, of course, shaped like an oven, making it a classic representation of her suicide.

The same can be said of these droll Sylvia Plath oven mitts, originally available from LitDead on Etsy. The sale listing stated that the mitts were meant to "memorialize" Plath-- and what better way to do so than by mocking her suicide?

Of course, this merchandise could be considered entertaining to a certain degree. However, in the field of Plath merchandise as a whole, the ouija board and oven mitts are representative of the dominant tendency to forget Plath's literary achievements and instead cement her as a figure to be remembered by her death. Plath is reduced from a great writer to a woman whose sole importance seems to be that she committed suicide. The suicide is lauded with a sense of glamour, and becomes part of the tragic romanticism that surrounds Plath in the present day.

This should further cement the glaring reality that Plath's presence today is largely composed of portrayals of her death. Though Plath is often treated with much more respect, this more playful vein of merchandise-- which includes the Plath paper dolls-- is nevertheless popular and very widespread.

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