Tuesday, July 26, 2011

More Celebrity "News" - Amy Winehouse Edition

News of the death of Amy Winehouse worked its way around the Facebook water cooler relatively quickly, as was to be expected. Most of the posts, that I saw at least, had a somber tone, regretful to see talent wasted. While no one seemed to be particularly surprised, most apparently had been hoping for her to pull it together enough to follow up her Back to Black album with a piece of work equally as rich and soulful, while others seemed to be of the opinion that that album’s depth probably came from emotions that were tragically inseparable from the self-destructive behavior. Some simply joked that she “probably should have gone to rehab, but she said: ‘No, no, no.’”

Others stuck Winehouse comments into threads dealing with the tragedy in Norway, in which a radical right-wing, racist xenophobe murdered nearly a hundred people in cold blood, as if to chastise us for spending so much time weighing in on a death of a pop star who was more famous for her offstage behavior than her incredibly limited catalog, instead of dealing with weightier issues that demand our attention and discussion.

It is true that I commented on Amy Winehouse’s death on Facebook before I commented on the tragedy in Norway, even though that happened the day before. It seemed easier to comment on her. Talking about what happened in Norway felt like a bigger responsibility. I would actually have to say something intelligent.

What happened in Norway was real news, in every sense of the word. It was shocking, unexpected, and while not geographically close to home, the issues certainly are. Truly this requires real discussion beyond knee jerk reactions, not only in discussions of the event itself, but also in how it was reported, specifically how quickly the assumption of Islamic terrorism became voiced long before accurate information became available.

Most would say that Ms. Winehouse’s death, by comparison, is not news, and it isn’t. It is entertainment, and entertainment is what is talked about around the water cooler. Entertainment can fit in little sound bites and be attached to trite sayings punch lines. News requires thought and contextualization, which actually requires effort.

I do not want to belittle the death of a human being, and I do consider myself one of those who were hoping for a recovery and a comeback, but her death was not unexpected. Quite the contrary, her death was the final act in the show that we had been watching for the past couple of years. Some had hoped that the story would have a happy ending, but deep down, did anyone really think that it would? But there’s nothing wrong with a sad ending. We all love a sad movie now and then, right?

Is it heartless of me to be saying this? We watched her deterioration without wracking our brains of how to intervene. We didn’t ponder a course of action to take based on the “news” of her condition. I don’t think that’s any reason to beat ourselves up over that. Celebrities have always served the purpose of being distant figures to be the objects of idolization, derision, and gossip kept at a safe distance. Their private lives are repurposed to be a game as engaging and entertaining as the work they create, often more so.

For this reason, I am not surprised that more people are talking about Amy Winehouse, and what’s more, I’m glad that more people are. I don’t want to see Facebook clogged with a bunch of poorly though out gut reactions and flippant comments about an issue as grave as what happened in Norway. What happened in Norway was news, and I would rather hear nothing than hear reports that are skewed in the direction of sensationalism or propaganda. The problem is when entertainment is treated like news and news treated like entertainment, which is too often the case. Frankly, it is just easier to talk about Amy Winehouse, anyone can voice an opinion with no harm done. I wouldn’t want to hear most of those people weigh in on global politics anyway. Myself included.


Arturo Ui said...

"Is it heartless of me to be saying this? We watched her deterioration without wracking our brains of how to intervene."

Right, but we were not exactly to enabled to intervene, either. Seriously, which of her fans was going to be the one to shake that monkey off of Amy's back? The notion sounds ridiculous, because it is.

I do remember a couple years back when she left her husband, got clean, met some other guy who seemed like not a total monster, and gave interviews about seeing clearly for the first time how serious her drug problem had become. Then she slipped back into the fog.

Roger Weisman said...

That is exactly what I am arguing. It is a ridiculous notion. It is ludicrous to think that we were watching news of her escapades for any other reason than entertainment. As you say, we are not enabled to intervene. I did not say this in order to surprise anyone, rather to reiterate what should be the key aspects of news: The difference it makes it our daily lives, and the courses of action that it leads to.

Arturo Ui said...

"It is ludicrous to think that we were watching news of her escapades for any other reason than entertainment. "

Right. I guess the spectating is a separate activity from the enjoyment of her music. The endless stories of her hopeless addiction made me sad, but I really didn't follow them closely...because they made me sad. I loved her music though, and kind of separated the work from the person in the tabloids. I'm not sure if others did or not. I was surprised to see how many of the people commenting about her death on Facebook (usually in a snarky or haditcoming way) had never even heard her albums, but seemed to know so much about her. I guess I shouldn't be.