Friday, June 26, 2009

Which Paper Got It Right?

I'm always saddened when a person dies too young. That holds true for Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, who both died yesterday. What bothers me is the amount of coverage the media felt was warranted. On NBC evening news, out of 22, minutes Jackson got 8 and Fawcett got 4. Did anything else of note not take place?

I realize both these entertainers are considered iconic. Jackson revolutionized pop music. He was also one of the most dysfunctional people in the business. Farrah, like others, was more of a fashion icon for that beautiful mane of blond hair. She too had her share of problems in her personal life.

It often seems the more dysfunctional a celebrity is, the greater degree of popularity. Why is it so many are drawn to them? We certainly don't envy them their problems. Jackson became a joke. Anna Nicole Smith became a joke. So did the overweight, drug infused Elvis.

I don't think it's a generational thing. Consider the throngs that still visit Graceland. They are mostly women, mostly in my age bracket. Why the throngs of people surrounding the hospital to which Jackson was taken? Why the uncontrollable weeping over a man they had never met?

Are our lives so empty we have to immerse ourselves in their lives, problems and all? Are we so shallow that these people are really our idols?

Where are the writers and artists? Where are our military men and women who have performed unbelievable acts of valor to save their comrades while under fire. It always seems to be the entertainers and the athletes. Ability in their chosen fields? Some more than others but, yes, or they'd not have attained their celebrity status. Intellect? Questionable for far too many.

It interests me. I have never lived in a foreign land. Other than the outpouring for Princess Diana, another dysfunctional celebrity, I've never witnessed grieving for one of their iconic personalities. Are they like us? I sincerely hope not. At least not to the same extreme.

So which paper got it right? The Wall Street Journal. A shy half page on page three of section A.

Now the hype begins. Jackson's doctor's car impounded, a Mozart of the century, a true muse who sacrificed everything for his music.

This is a matter of personal taste, I'll admit, but how can one compare The Marriage of Figaro, the Magic Flute, Don Giovanni and The Requiem to Thriller?

You might wonder who my idols may be. To tell the truth I don't have any. There are actors and actresses and musicians and writers and athletes and military personnel who I admire and respect. When one dies, no matter how untimely, I do not weep in hysteria nor applaud them with exaggerated platitudes.

I will, however, salute them for a life well lived.


Linda said...

Right on. If the Obama administration has any bad news to drop on the country, today is the day to do it. For that matter they can probably do it anytime during the next week and possibly the next week before it will rate front page media coverage.

Does all this show us the shallow thinking of Americans?

Death is always to be respected but I find all this hoopla disgusting and it makes me heart sick for America.

Anonymous said...

A successful celebrity is one who has been able to touch the people's hearts. The outpouring attention is due less to shallowness and more with the incredibly empathy of people in America and everywhere...

Michael Jackson's death is especially tragic as his life was bittersweet: while he was masterful in his career, he also suffered from never have been out of the limelight.

Dogwalkmusings said...

I respect but disagree with your premise. This is empathy to the extreme and the point is not about Jackson unto himself.

Anonymous said...

Seeing the hoo-haw over Michael Jacksons death truly disgusted me. IMO he was useless and indulged in questionable behavior. I can't help but think of the young men and women giving their lives for their country. No front page tears there. Who is more worthy? Jackson or these patriots? Rhetorical question. Skewed priorities to say the least. CU

Sansego said...

I don't think there's anything wrong with a public reflection of a famous person's passing. People debate it each time one celebrity gets more noticed than another (remember the hoopla over who was more "deserving"...Lady Diana or Mother Teresa?).

To say that someone like MJ is not deserving because of his flaws or that troops are more deserving...its pointless. The way the media sees it, who has had a bigger impact on the world. Like him or hate him, MJ was the most successful superstar on the world stage. He had fans all over the world.

I think its healthy for a society to reflect on a famous person's life when that person passes from the scene. It helps us cope with our own mortality.

What MJ's life means to me is that I see him as a cautionary tale about having too much success at too young an age, letting it go to your head, how sexual deviancy can undermine your own success and that having so much money does make enablers of everyone who depends on your paycheck to make their living. Right, wrong, or whatever, you can't say that not a single person on earth can learn from his life story.

So, take part in the public ritual of memorials or do something else this weekend. We'll have a lull before the next set of three celebrities die and we go through this process again.

Margie's Musings said...

I can't understand the way people fawn over celebrities myself. Ordinarily they are flawed people who ruin their lives. I have always been grateful not to be beautiful. It seems beautiful people often have terrible problems. My grand daughter is a good example of that. Her life is full of drama of her own making.

No, celebrities are just people...they should be mourned but not worshiped.

WR said...

A life well lived - I'm not so certain. Perhaps we could just say a life lived. I wonder who is not troubled? It seems to me to be a mater of degree. Mother Theresa might have had a life well lived and she was also a troubled soul. Still living a life of service might trump a life of entertaining. Although I do understand that both serve a purpose.

I remember that women also cried and nationally mourned the death of Princess Dianna - another troubled person. We see something of ourselves in theses souls. And if they are rich and famous and have too much plastic surgery, identity crisis, get hit by an abusive partners, eat or drink too much - of course it becomes perfectly reasonable that the average human struggles with these issues as well. There is something ancient and tribal in it - who we watch and who we identify as leader. Who we choose to mock as well.

I wonder what a timely death might be - is assumes there is a right time. I probably have come to be a more ardently accept chaos theroy etc to think there is a right time for anything.

May each of these trouble souls R.I.P. - finally.

Dogwalkmusings said...

Sansego and WR, thanks for very thought provoking comments!

Sansego said...

Fame is an interesting thing, because in this century, we've had so many "reality" shows that people have become famous just for being on the show. For example, the media is obsessed with "Jon and Kate (Plus Eight)" and sounds like they had to do the show just to afford to raise all those kids, but being on the show subjected their lives to temptations and marital problems. I've generally ignored the stories about Jon and Kate and Octomom and such.

With Michael Jackson, though, he got famous because of talent. He made great music and videos that will live on long after his passing. Some might say pop culture is frivolous, but I sometimes wonder if Obama is where he is now because Michael Jackson really transformed how my generation viewed race (we grew up on Michael Jackson and MTV) versus the Baby Boomer generation.

Reading about his daily drug cocktail is not surprising. He was a 50 year old man about to undertake a grueling eight month long series of concerts and was "under pressure" to dance and sing the way fans expect of him. That's wrong. He's not the moonwalking 25 year old. Athletes generally retire before 40 for a reason! Placing constant physical demands on your body at middle age is not a good thing. Especially the kind Michael Jackson was doing.