Karla News

The Choking Game and the Movie, Flatliners

After Death Experiences

It’s never a good day to die–and yet a lot of teenagers are mimicking a quote reflecting that philosophy and originally uttered by Kiefer Sutherland (playing Nelson) in the 1990 movie “Flatliners.” Why would teens today be so fascinated with and mimicking an 18-year-old movie? Well, “Flatliners” is the only American movie ever made to date about life after death experiences. Unfortunately, it showed it in more of reckless way and with a rebellious attitude that would probably attract a few here and there in the late high school-college age group. But it also seemed to demean the process or feeling of what may or may not happen when you die. Even if it is a trick of the brain–a strange juxtaposition was created when kids started obsessing over “Flatliners” and wanting to get a “brownout” effect (more or less the high you feel when losing consciousness). Who would have ever thought that the sanctity of death could be joined with the rebelliousness of wanting to experience a natural high?

In the movie “Flatliners”–the kids in the movie experimenting with near-death experience appear to be on the fence with their faiths–yet all agree to take part in “dying” for at least a minute as Nelson successfully does in their strange and private group experiment. Nelson claims he had a euphoric moment after supposedly being clinically dead for that minute and then being resuscitated by his peers. Of course, once the others successfully have similar experiences–a more darkly pseudoscientific path ensues where they start encountering the ghosts of people they wronged or had strong emotional connections to at some points in their life.

This actually gives some humanity to “Flatliners” despite the characters’ original intention of playing around recklessly with death. Why some obsessed with the so-titled choking game (or sometimes called “Fainting Game”) are finding more than that behind “Flatliners” is a bit of a mystery. While no reports are coming out saying that they’re seeing ghostly figures haunting their life–the apparent selling point of “Flatliners” as an influence is when the word “euphoria” was uttered by Nelson after his first death experience. Some (and I do mean some) bored kids out there will obviously try anything to get a high through any means possible. When the Choking Game becomes a dare to fellow peers–then it becomes even more intoxicating…especially when the star of “24” managed to come back to life successfully without brain damage at the end of “Flatliners” (after twelve minutes being dead). That ridiculousness needs to be rectified for those who actually still believe flatline (or asystolic) heart rhythms can be jumpstarted successfully.

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What’s worse is when kids start using methods to deplete oxygen from the brain to get that reported euphoric feeling. That involves processes the characters in “Flatliners” never use: Strangulation (by restricting blood through the carotid artery in the neck)–and another odd method utilizing hyperventilation.

The feeling of euphoria and where the line is between death and a natural high…

Liken this process to our tampering with what’s sacred in life if you’re inclined as we’ve done with other things in life people agree with and disagree with in the hierarchy of sanctity. While it seems that perhaps some kids are realizing the strangulation method of getting a euphoric “brownout” is too dangerous (and, to be fair, a lot of recent polls indicate small percentages of kids are doing the choking game at all)–another method has been done lately called “self-induced hypocapnia.” In this process, a person hyperventilates themselves to the point where it causes a tingling sensation of reports of a euphoric feeling before coming to their senses. But that process is just as dangerous if oxygen doesn’t get back into the brain in time and could cause strokes or general brain damage.

So far, no empirical evidence has been presented just what that euphoric feeling is people feel when able to cut off oxygen to their brain for a time. Was “Flatliners” actually giving a subtle message that perhaps we enter different otherworldly states of mind depending on how we’re approaching the process, our levels of faith and other determinations of our lives? Some might argue that because we feel euphoria when we could be in a near-death state–our personal concept of God will always provide comfort and love for the person–regardless of the stupidity they show by self-inflicting a near-death experience. Or the more scientific person will just say our brains are automatically wired to get a peaceful feeling when oxygen is cut off.

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When you see so many uniform experiences of people who’ve supposedly died (and were actually out of their bodies observing events backed up later–all while feeling overwhelmingly peaceful)–you can’t help but think that a prolonged cut-off of oxygen will start an early process of true death.

The thought could be, too, that because this is all happening in the brain–our thought processes survive in death and may stay active until your personal belief of what happens in the process of resurrection happens. Flatliners” isn’t afraid to show that we’re connected mentally to people we cared about…or even felt guilt about through life. While the film shows physical manifestations of those people–it’s still connected through the brain and bringing them from our subconscious (where communication with all our loved ones alive and dead may reside) to the conscious forefront.

Then there’s the method in some kids of wanting to get an erotic high that’s generally called “erotic asphyxiation.” In that regard, the middle road to death may not necessarily be controlled by positive forces from on high–unless you can successfully prove a linkage of having sex to the religious experience of dying.

The Strangeness of Hypoxyphilia…

“Flatliners” didn’t get into this process that’s long been designated a true mental illness. This is the bizarre practice of cutting off oxygen to the brain in order for people to supposedly increase the intensity of orgasms during sex or masturbation. As you might guess, older kids are more attracted to this than just experiencing euphoria when passing out. It’s also something depicted in many films (mostly overly daring independent ones) and classic novels during the 20th century–and almost always displays a character who tried it losing their life and then it being covered up by their friends to avoid the embarrassing demise. Of course, had “Flatliners” gone into this territory, the film would have been given an NC-17 rating and had a smaller audience. It probably was tempted to when this process has been around for centuries…but kept in private circles.

When rumors keep popping up that a lot of real-life figures who were said to die from suicide actually died of Hypoxyphilia (the technical name for Erotic Asphyxiation)–it makes “Flatliners” seem less dangerously influential in comparison. Late INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence is still assumed to have died from suicide–despite rumors he died from erotic asphyxiation. And so many other notables in history may have died the same way, yet kept quiet in the mainstream.

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Seeing things happen like this takes away any of the dignity we normally associate with death. It also seems to show the gradations of death and how it can be led on sometimes from dark influences–even though we’re obviously unable to ask the dead person what they felt once death actually happened. There seems to be a lot faith with many that–outside of the euphoria felt (from sex or other means) teetering on the edge of death–the same peaceful feeling will continue in the event you stay dead.

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Maybe it’s a blessing so many people are so sure of what they’ll feel when they die–regardless of their faith or how they lived their life before. The characters in “Flatliners” obviously had the same hubris or they wouldn’t have tried what they did if they thought there’d be a feeling of something undesirable. And based on that, it seemed to plant a seed in a new generation on trying to temper death based on something as simple as peer pressure.

Well, it doesn’t have to be said how complicated our times are and the complex attitudes of Generation Y. I do pray, though, that the kids still stupidly trying the choking game just for a simple natural high get a better sense of reality behind death and how fragile life really is. I also hope they realize that death should stay as a sanctified process and not denigrating it by riding the Grim Reaper’s coattails just to get a feeling you can get through safer and legal means. Every human soul deserves to have a death (hopefully when they’re well over 100) in a way that’s spiritually ceremonial and not entering its realms with stupidity and tragedy attached to their soul.