This essay concentrates on a series of suicide plots in which the risk of one’s undoing does not indicate a refusal of one’s existing life as much as it performs a fantastic desire to live a different one. Willa Cather’s short story “Paul’s Case” (1905), Ridley Scott’s Thelma and Louise (1991), and Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Birdman (2014) help us think about how suicide functions as a sustaining fantasy and a queer narrative strategy. In each, the main character’s retreat into suicidal fantasy is not limiting but productive: it creates a space of protection for otherwise damaged individuals, allowing them to imagine an alternative configuration as/at the end of their world. This essay thus makes the counterintuitive claim that the suicide plot should be read non-tragically. It considers how acts of self-annihilation force us to think about the binding narratives of gendered and sexualized person-hood. If these narratives most readily seem to forward a critique of the hetero and sexist norms for life, they also offer a compelling argument about how the use of death works to imagine new forms, narratives, and possibilities of living.

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