'Beetlejuice: The Musical': The Crude, Weird, Yet Emotionally Intelligent Show That Helped Me Through My Grief
If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.
Welcome to a show, er…story, I suppose, about death.
I’ll be honest with you. “Beetlejuice” was never my favorite movie. I didn’t see it as a young girl because my mother isn’t into that aesthetic, and when I was old enough to watch it myself I wasn’t pulled in. I’m not a huge fan of crude humor just to be crude, and well…everything that the movie is. No shame to you if you like it, but it just wasn’t my cup of juice. Get it? Juice instead of tea because it’s “Beetlejuice?”
Thank you if you pity laughed.
When the musical version of “Beetlejuice” dropped, I wasn’t super excited because like the musical, the aesthetic just wasn’t for me. I listened to it once, wasn’t initially moved, and forgot about it. Then one day my friend convinced me to go and see the actual show and my life was changed.
First some back story:
In 2020 had my first dance with death-related grief, and not just that but it left me with some severe suicidal ideation. I’ve gone through depression, breakups, and loss before, but never quite like the multiple losses I experienced that year. I was fundamentally changed and not for the better.
In the musical adaptation, Lydia Deetz recently lost her mother and her father started dating another woman. They move into a new home and she’s feeling lost and alone. There’s a point in the musical where she explores suicide (before Beetlejuice himself pops up and convinces her not to for his own selfish gain) due to the deep cavern of depression she can’t seem to escape. Ultimately, she learns through a trip to the netherworld and a few songs and quick changes that while her family may look different, and even though she’ll always miss her mother, life is still worth living. Love, loss, grief, and life can co-exist.
It was July 29, 2021 when I was driving in Florida listening to this album when “Home” came on, a powerful ballad where Lydia sings to her mother confessing how desperate she is to have her back, and how fatigued she is emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. It was my grandfather’s first birthday after he passed in November of 2020. On top of that, it was a week and a half after the death anniversary of my emotional support dog who saved my life countless times. My home didn’t look the same. My then-alive grandmother never fully recovered. That empty dog bowl and chair at the dinner table haunted me the same way Beetlejuice wanted the Maitlands to haunt the Deetzes and I can’t count how many times I considered ending it all.
I’ve never seen that level of suicidality due to grief spoken to until “Beetlejuice” was released. Yes, grief is in all media, but nothing, and I mean nothing, made me feel more seen than when I was watching Lydia’s journey unfold before my eyes. Yes, the jokes are crude (although way better written) and it’s still spooky and aesthetically dark, but it’s also incredibly emotionally intelligent in a life-saving way.
So often, media utilizes mental health as trauma porn, aiming to use it in the same way you would a jump scare in a horror film. They commodify real pain and trauma for a hopeful Emmy, Oscar, or Tony nomination. “Beetlejuice” manages to create a hysterical and emotional experience that can touch anyone who has ever danced with suicidal ideation or actions after the death of a loved one without throwing the trauma in your face.
If you haven’t listened to the soundtrack, I suggest you do. If you feel comfortable seeing the show (keep that mask on and get vaccinated) and you’re able to, please go. You won’t regret it.
In the meantime, enjoy this clip from the explosive second-act song “Beautiful Sound” that gives me so much serotonin I forget I’m mentally ill for all of two minutes.
Lead image courtesy of Beetlejuice’s official YouTube channel