By Ciarán Daly
What does it say about us: that we crucify our idols and use their bones to sell Bibles?
On 31 August, 1997, in a high-speed chase through a Parisian tunnel, members of the press rushed to keep pace with Diana’s disgraced royal cavalcade. The high-intensity camera flashes had the effect of a strobe, dazzling her drunk chauffeur who lost control of the vehicle, sending it careening into the walls of the tunnel, kill all onboard.
In 2008, after years of isolation amid legal and public controversy, Michael Jackson suffered a cardiac arrest following an overdose of his prescribed anti-anxiety medication.
In 2012, a drug-addled, exhausted, and alcoholic Amy Winehouse died of an overdose after years of hounding by the paparazzi. Her every meal, conversation, and movement for years had been photographed and documented across double-page spreads in the tabloids and the gossip magazines.
These are just some of victims of the Western celebrity media, who stack up like so many issues of Hello!magazine. Once-ordinary people who were perhaps rather good or even noteworthy at something are catapulted into a blinding spotlight. In the quest to sell papers, merchandise, and interview spots to millions of fawning bootlickers, every marketable habit or tic a so-called celebrity might possess is pored over. Bins are searched, crotches are photographed, and privacy is destroyed. The person beneath is broken—calcified by fame.
Who wants to live forever?
Driving someone—in some cases, quite literally—to isolation, to despair, to death is not enough for us. Where we see wreath-laying mourners on the 7O’Clock News, media conglomerates, record producers, and publishing houses see customers, rubbing their hands together as soon as they get a whiff of blood. Even the Queen is not safe: the BBC have kept the news segment reporting her passing on ice for the last two decades.
There’s a very simple reason for this. Celebrities are worth more dead than alive. After all, David Bowie and Michael Jackson made more money from six feet under than they ever did on a sold-out stadium tour. The British public sneered when North Koreans wept in the streets following the death of Kim Jong-Il, yet we whip ourselves into a frenzy as soon as any of our own appointed demigods pass.
The tributes roll in online, and the biographies, documentaries, greatest hits, stage shows, re-releases, and posthumous pillowcases roll off the assembly line. Stadium tours are announced for holographic ghosts of rock stars forty years dead. The press happily obliges all this, drowning personal legacies in crocodile tears all while grooming the next Winehouse for liver failure. What does this say about us: that we crucify our idols and use their bones to sell Bibles?
If you are under any doubt as to whether or not this cultural affliction is anything but wholly disingenuous, hypocritical, and inhumane, take a look at Jade Goody. Jade Goody was universally reviled and dogged by the British tabloids for her infamous racist comments on Celebrity Big Brother, becoming the front-page villain, JADE BADDY. As soon as Goody was tragically diagnosed with terminal cervical cancer, though, the media performed a most grotesque U-turn, desperately advocating for her as a kind, caring mother of two, rather than the gobby Essex racist they had just spent the previous two years wickermanning.
In the land of the media giants, you are never allowed to die. Your corpse will be re-animated. It shall be sliced into easily digestible sandwich meat ready to fill the hungry bellies of the ravenous folk, desperate for something, anything meaningful to consume in a world without security, belonging, or community.
Throw yourself onto the funeral pyre, sacrifice your body, heart, and soul to become like smoke, rising into the sky, dazzling with embers the masses below. This is success.