Sunday, February 12, 2012

Are celebrities more worthy than the rest of us? Really?

Whitney Houston has died. You can't help but know this, because it's everywhere you look right now. On the news, on the entertainment shows, on the political shows, in the magazines, in the newspaper, all over the internet...Another incredibly talented, incredibly wealthy, incredibly famous (and infamous), celebrity, whose life was cut prematurely short due to using drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with the stresses and challenges of the very fame and fortune she coveted. Something many people, celebrity and non-celebrity, choose to do. Turn to drugs or alcohol or sex or bulimia or gambling or "sex addiction" (whatever!) or some other unhealthy coping mechanism to deal with life.

Only, when you're a massive celebrity, like Ms. Houston, you are somehow held in higher regard than others. Your death is blamed on the pressures of fame and fortune, not the choices you have made in your life. People say things like, "Let's just remember the legacy of this incredible singer, the incomprable voice, and not dwell on her demons." Demons? Why aren't we talking more about the choices, not "demons", that led to her death and the deaths of so many other rich, famous people. There are plenty of ordinary people, all over the world, facing challenges like poverty, disease, broken marriages, hunger, illiteracy, harassment and abuse, grief, you-name-it, without turning to drugs and alcohol and blaming it on their circumstances. Where is the news coverage of these people? And, why is that so many "ordinary" people are blamed and reviled when drug use leads to tragedy, but we let celebrities off the hook?

Don't get me wrong. I know that addiction is a very real, very daunting, and very difficult obstacle to overcome. I have seen genuine addiction tear apart families and ruin lives. (Although I have some healthy cynicism every time I hear some male politician or cheating celebrity claim that "sex addiction" was the reason for their infidelity....)  And, I feel no joy or satisfaction that Ms. Houston has died. It's a senseless waste. I still hold memories of her soaring rendition of "I Will Always Love You" in my heart. Her voice was amazing. Her smile, infectious. Her choices, terrible. But, it bothers me that tributes and fanfare and passionate emoting about the wonder of Whitney are flooding the airwaves, everywhere you look, with very little discussion of the decisions she made that led to her death.

This kind of thing happens all the time. We are celebrity-obsessed in the United States. We seem to hold famous people in higher-regard, no matter how eroded their morality, how horrible their decisions, or how reprehensible or foolish their behavior. So, why is this bothering me so much today?

Because, just a few days ago, two little boys were blown up by their deranged father. Charlie and Braden Powell, two completely innocent young boys, were murdered in an act so selfish, so horrific, so unbelievable, that it should be at the top of the discussion boards. It should be everywhere we look in the media, because it should be the kind of thing we are mobilized as a society to combat. Instead of massive, ongoing tributes to a woman who had every advantage life had to offer -- beauty, talent, wealth, recognition... Where are the tributes in support of children like Charlie and Braden? Where is the media coverage of  the masses clamoring for more funding for programs like Child Protective Services? Was there media coverage of this horrible event and the funeral of these two little boys? A little. A drop in the bucket, compared to what we've already seen about Whitney Houston.

That's not right. It's just not right.


  1. I heart you, Beth! You're a passionate, yet reasonable voice, articulating what I (and I bet many others) are feeling. I feel bad that she died, I feel bad that she had "demons" but she also had every resource at her fingertips and CHOSE to keep using drugs. She had enough money to stay in rehab for YEARS if that's what it took to get clean for herself and for her children, but she kept abusing her body and talent and life.

    As for the Powell boys...if people aren't talking about it much I think it's because it's just soooo unfathomable, especially as more details were revealed. It was one thing to think the boys ran into the house happy to see their dad and didn't feel anything when the house blew up spontaneously. It was quite another to realize the torture and terror and agony they experienced at the hands of their father during their last few minutes on earth. I have a hard time wrapping my head around it, as a mom, as a human...I haven't even really discussed it much with friends, and vice versa. I think because it's just too unbelievable to comprehend.

    1. You're probably right. I kept going from the TV to my boys' rooms to hug them, and back again. It is unfathomable.

  2. I am in agreement that the more details that come out about this case it becomes almost two hard to talk about. As far as Whitney I agree it is sad but not the worst thing that is going on in the world

    1. It just seems like our priorities are out of whack, doesn't it?