Observations on the Aftermath of Whitney Houston’s Death
Posted by Ben Erlichman on February 16, 2012
Whenever a celebrity dies, especially one of the caliber of Whitney Houston, or Michael Jackson, or Larry King–wait…he’s not dead yet? Oh, he just kind of looks like he’s dead. My bad.
Anyway, there’s a predictable pattern of reaction from the media, from social networks, and from other celebrities. It’s horrible, but true, and most of it infuriates me. Here are two of my observations regarding Whitney Houston’s recent passing:
1. The media was well-prepared–too well-prepared. I think we all know by now that major media outlets have obituary files and footage already picked out for most of the world’s major celebrities, so all they have to do is pull out that file, mash together that footage and have the anchors/reporters practice going through some of said celeb’s lifetime highlights, low periods, and everything in-between before going on live and presenting the obituary.
That means that these news outlets not only have those files and footage, but that they update them regularly, and they also probably prioritize them based on who they think is going to croak first. In a way, this is a totally heartless and cold approach to the death of an important person, but if you stop and consider it, isn’t that kind of news exactly what everyone is supposed to get? Even-tempered, unbiased reporting of the facts?
I still don’t think I like it, though.
2. Idiots used Whitney’s death as a chance to advance their own agendas. This is the reason why I felt I should write on this topic today. I’m flummoxed at some peoples’ stupid behavior in response to Whitney’s death. If you thought the media outlets were bad for being well-prepared for Whitney’s death, you’ll be disgusted at some of the things coming out of celebrities’ mouths and from social networking sites like Facebook.
Two examples in particular really made me fume. Tony Bennett, who, for our younger readers, is a very famous singer/performer from yesteryear, made one of the dumbest comments I’ve ever heard after a celebrity’s death: he said, “I’d like to have every gentleman and lady in this room commit themselves to get our government to legalize drugs. So they have to get it through a doctor, not just some gangsters that sell it under the table.”
Look, I’m not going to comment on the validity of his argument. Maybe he’s right, maybe not. But that’s not the point. The point is that he stood up in public and used Whitney Houston’s death to advance his own agenda. Wow…what a way to pay tribute to a friend–use their death to tell the government that drugs should be legalized. How do you think the population would have responded if reputable pastor like Rick Warren (not that he would) came out in public and said that everyone should accept Jesus and live fulfilled lives so they don’t end up like Whitney Houston? The universe, including a lot of Christians, would throw a conniption fit. To sum up, Tony’s comment was poorly-timed, and inappropriate.
Here’s another dumb thing I saw, this one on Facebook:
I used Steve because I saw this meme used after his death first–and also because the one I found with Whitney had a picture of her with her chest halfway hanging out. You get the idea, though, right? Millions “cry” when a celebrity dies, but no one cries for the millions dying from AIDS in Africa, or from ethnic cleansing/genocide, or from hunger.
I won’t argue with the premise. Yes, the world is a place of a profound injustice, and this does a good job of showing that discrepancy. That said, this is just as opportunistic and inappropriate as Tony’s comment above for exactly the same reason: the author is using a tragedy to advance their own agenda at the expense of the departed person immortalized in their meme, as if subtly implying that somehow, it’s partly Whitney’s or Steve’s fault that millions are dying. Or, at the very least, such memes are made to make us feel guilty about how we react to celeb deaths.
I’m probably not the best example of how to react to a celebrity’s death because I generally don’t spend much time following their lives in the first place. That said, you’re getting my opinion anyway.
When Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson died, and even more so when Steve Irwin (the Crocodile Hunter) was skewered by a stingray a few years back and died, I felt very sad. I didn’t go out and place flowers or notes or teddy bears on their graves (or in front of their chain of Apple stores like folks did with Steve Jobs), but their deaths impacted me (less with Steve Jobs, as I’m only a recent convert to the cult of Apple).
The meme above makes the assumption that we stupid, spoiled Americans care more about a person (who has actually affected our lives in some way) than we do about those suffering and dying around the world. Honestly, I’m sure that is the case with a lot of people, but to use a celeb death as an opportunity to guilt-trip the rest of us, including people close to Whitney or Steve or Steve or Michael, is wrong.
Sorry, but you’re just being a jerk. You haven’t considered how many people those celebs actually did touch in a profound way, who are already hurting at the loss of a friend, family member, or loved one (celebrity), upon seeing your meme, feel guilty and used as a part of a scheme to raise awareness for an issue that most people would already agree with anyway. In other words, your timing sucks because you don’t have the balls to try to promote your ideas in a time of normalcy and instead do it at the expense of someone’s death and others’ grief.
Alright. I’m done ranting. I’d love to get your thoughts on this. Next week, stay tuned for a much anticipated post, probably the second-to-last one you’ll get out of me here at Reflections: Things that Weigh a Thousand Pounds (aka things that I can leg press).
This entry was posted on February 16, 2012 at 11:26 AM and is filed under Anxiety, Authors, Encouragment, Friendship, Happiness, Hospitality, Inspiration, Life Experiences, Living Our Faith Out Loud, Music, Publishing, Uncategorized, Working from home, Writing. Tagged: Apple, Ben Erlichman, celebrities, celebrity, celebrity deaths, Crocodile Hunter, death, Facebook, In the Fray, Internet memes, mass media, Michael Jackson, Obituary, One Dies Millions cry, Reflections in Hindsight, social network, Steve Irwin, Steve Jobs, Tony Bennett, Whitney Houston, writing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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