Controversy erupted across social media about whether Mark Salling deserves sympathy following his suicide. Salling, who is famous for his role as Noah “Puck” Puckerman on the Fox TV show Glee, hanged himself at a river near his home in Sunland, California, about five weeks after officially pleading guilty to charges of child pornography.
In his plea bargain, he admitted to downloading more than 50,000 images of child pornography. Salling faced between four to seven years of jail time, mandatory registration as a sex offender and a requirement to pay $50,000 in restitution to each of his victims that requested it.
Salling’s sentencing was scheduled for March 7, but the case was dismissed following the 35-year-old’s death. His victims will not receive any restitution as a result.
While suicide is undoubtedly tragic and should be treated as such, Salling’s suicide is a unique case.
There is the question of whether or not his death should be mourned following his sex offender charges. The severity of his crimes and the circumstances leading up to his suicide shroud his death in indignity.
Does he deserve to be mourned after he spent years abusing children? Is his death a tragedy or a coward’s way out?
Should the bad he brought into the world outweigh the good?
These are the heavy questions Salling’s family members, friends and fans have to ask themselves now.
The answer, however, is more complex than a simple yes or no.
The Mark Salling that he chose to show the world was not the same Mark Salling that lived behind closed doors.
He showed only one side of himself, the side that was light-hearted and admirable. This was the charming, singer, dancer and Hollywood actor who lit up the screen with his presence. Thanks to the popularity of Glee, he became an idol to many.
The public fell in love with the side of Salling that he let them see, and as far as they were concerned, he was a good man.
When people mourn Salling’s death, they shed tears over the man they thought they knew. Their pain stems from not only the loss of someone they loved, but also the stinging bite of betrayal when they discovered he withheld his dark side.
Some may argue that Salling was the same person regardless of what he did behind closed doors, however, the grotesque pedophilia that consumed him takes precedence over everything else.
Grief, however, causes people to think illogically. It is a deeply personal experience, and to shame those who mourn him — particularly his close friends and family — is disrespectful.
The dark side of Salling was a dramatic shift from what people thought they knew about him. Adjusting opinions and viewpoints that have been ingrained into people’s minds for years — or in the case of loved ones, decades — cannot be accomplished overnight.
Death is traumatizing for all those involved, and having to untangle the mess of ethical problems that follow is a journey of its own.
Salling didn’t leave a note and so his true motives may never be known to anyone but himself. Popular speculation points to the idea that he felt trapped by having his crimes broadcast to the world.
It’s possible Salling committed suicide because of irrevocable guilt and remorse.
Neither reason serves as an excuse for his despicable actions.
Salling escaped punishment for his crimes, much to the dismay of victims and their families.
However, the conclusion remains the same — a life is gone. Whether or not one chooses to mourn his death is a matter of personal opinion.
But shaming others over their choice in a time of grief is repugnant.