Thursday, 28 July 2011

The Death Effect

The passing of death always serves as a reminder of how fragile life is. It's a swift jolt to brains caught up in the monotony of everyday existence. Suddenly we remember that death is scary and final; death happens.

The death of Amy Winehouse at the weekend, sadly, did not shock me. It was everything that happened afterwards. It was the news channels spitting out the news only an hour after she was found dead. It was the gluttonous purchasing of her music on iTunes, sending an old album flying back up the charts, as if people hadn't had access to it for the last five years. It was the media lionising her unforgettable talent when previously all they did was berate her for her addiction, despite the messy tabloid gold it provided. 

It all just felt wrongly childish; as if we lived in a giant playground and everyone had decided it was okay to like that person again. It didn't matter if they knocked them to the ground and kicked them while they were down. That was yesterday.

Still, it is not the first time this has happened. Michael Jackson's death two years ago induced the same surge in his popularity. In recent years, condoned by the media in light of the allegations surrounding his private life, he was ridiculed and vilified. And yet, within hours of his death he was a renewed figure of appreciation; a talent the world would miss.

Take Marilyn Monroe. During her career she was never really viewed as an exemplary actress; her job was a 'sex symbol' and nothing more. But since her death at age 36, she is cited as one of the greatest female stars of all time. Her estate is probably richer now than it ever was when she was alive.

What is it about the effect of death on a person's significance? Seemingly, an untimely demise renews our interest in their contribution to the world. Where was all this caring and appreciation when it really counted?

Suddenly everyone remembers that person actually mattered and, perhaps surprisingly, that person was human; not some figure of greatness to perch on a pedestal. They were flesh, blood and bones; their hearts could break and their souls could hurt. They were just like us

Maybe that's what this is all about. Glorifying someone after their death is just a reflection of how we would want to be treated. Maybe this rush to celebrate Amy Winehouse and remember her talent is because we ourselves want to be celebrated when we're gone. We don't want to be forgotten.

Reader, what say you?


  1. Hi Lou
    I think the fascination is about death at a young age. That's the common theme here and it's about what these artists 'could have' done. It is a sensibility akin to nostalgia but looking forward. The feeling is 'if only'.

    It's easier to go on and on about 'if only' because it's a fiction. It's harder to argue the facts and make that interesting. 'If only' is open-ended and myth-making.

    These artists are elevated to myth. I don't think they're made human at all. On the contrary. Does anyone in the media muse on the fact that Amy Winehouse was alone when she died? What were her feelings or state of mind? How alone must she have felt during her final days? Thinking of those things would be seeing Amy as a human.

  2. To me, I think it's a pity that such talent was cut to such a short time span, and hence buying up their stuff and trying to hold on to the good part of the memory (although I never did join that buying frenzy). Winehouse was really talented. I hope she finally found the illusive peace.

  3. I think its about the masses rushing to catch a train. It's the train with all the cool people on it. They might not have paid proper attention when the celeb was alive, but the death train gives them one last chance.

  4. Kitty: I think you are correct. Artists do seem to be viewed as mythical creatures. I wonder why that is? I saw a picture of Winehouse's Dad handing out her t.shirts and this woman was smelling them like she was smelling God. It was weird. I have never been like that. Ever.

    Sarah: It's a true pity. She was super talented. It makes it even more sad that she probably died from alcohol withdrawal. Dying whilst trying to save yourself. Irony sure is bitter sometimes.

    Bruce: This is a great metaphor. The death train. Also known as the bandwagon.

    Thanks for all the comments. Appreciated as always. :)

  5. This was so sad on all accounts, Lou. This talent wasted. Then people trying to buy up the stuff. Not taking time to mourn this loss. Just treating it like she was some god. Very sad. I wonder if she ever realized just how talented she really was. :(


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