The television news this evening was full of the death of Peaches Geldof.
I don’t often watch the news, but OH had put the TV on ready for our nightly dose of ‘Enterprise’ while cooking our dinner so I was a captive audience. As I listened, I felt very sad that a young woman was dead at only twenty-five years of age leaving two young children. The husband, poor guy, only got a brief mention some time into the coverage, and his name was hardly mentioned at all. There’s some kind of mystery about her death, so there will be an investigation, which is doubly hard for the family.
But as I listened, and the coverage went on, and on, and on* I began to get saddened, not just by the death of this young woman and the loss of her, particularly to her two children, but by the amount of time given to this one celebrity death.
As it continued (and started to repeat itself), and began dragging up her mother’s death and the tragedy which seems to stalk the Geldof family and the pictures that had been posted on Twitter, I went from saddened to irritated and finally arrived at angry.
How dare they? That’s what I was thinking.
How dare they devalue the grief and loss of every other person who has lost a loved one today? What is it that makes Paula Yates’ daughter more important that my friend Julie who died a short while ago, also a young woman? What makes her more important than my brother-in-law who died unexpectedly last week? What makes her more important than another friend’s mother who also passed away a few days ago? How DARE they profit from the quite scary emotional intensity of celebrity cultists to elevate one single young woman above countless beloved and worthy citizens who have passed away unsung today?
The news also broke today of the death of Mickey Rooney, who was also a celebrity and arguably contributed more to the entertainment world than Peaches Geldof-Cohen, but the coverage of his death was much lower-key, much less extensive and less wrought with emotion. Actually, I felt it was handled with a lot more respect.
OK, I hold up my hands in acknowledgement of the fact that this blog is titled ‘The Depp Effect’ in honour of one actor who is rather dear to me. Yes, I have rearranged my life at times to meet him, and to meet up with other fans in far-flung places, and I have a whole (bulging) drawer devoted to his movies, and posters all over the house, but let’s be honest: while he is indeed a handsome, charismatic and extremely talented actor who also happens to be sweet and generous and has given to the world truckloads of entertainment, he is still just one man who has his own failings and his own sadnesses, and his own family who have a right to privacy. Straight up, I would feel this type of news coverage was wrong whichever celebrity it was: Johnny Depp, Mickey Rooney, or your own old Grandpa.
Mickey Rooney was a child actor. He worked pretty much all of his life, crawling onto the stage at the age of fourteen months and landing his first proper role at the age of six years old. He served in the military, and was beloved by generations. He was one of the few silent movie actors who made it into film and TV with a long and illustrious career. Why didn’t he get more air-time today? Is it because he was in his nineties when he died? Does that make him of no account, and his family’s grief of no account?
My brother-in-law was a vicar with a quiet, wickedly dry sense of humour. My friend was a sweet, funny, charming and sparkly girl. My other friend’s mother .. well, I didn’t know her, and I don’t know how old she was, but she mattered, just the same. How do we measure one person’s importance against another?
I am not going to say that any of the other people mentioned in this post were worth more than Peaches Geldof-Cohen. I have absolutely no right to judge that, especially since I really know nothing about her. But what I do believe is that they weren’t worth any less.
And I also believe that media companies who cover celebrity deaths, doing their best to outdo each other in playing to the emotions of the scandal-obsessed public, should be ashamed of themselves.
Do they not realise – or do they not care – that in raking over the coals like this and making one celebrity the focus of the whole evening’s news that they are causing pain to countless grieving people whose loved ones also died today? And, by the way, probably intensifying the pain of the family concerned, who are now being mugged for interviews, information and snippets of scandal?
And they are also devaluing everything else of major importance going on in the wider world.
Look. By all means cover the death of anyone you like in the national news if you think it would be of public interest, but for discussion, speculation, wringing of hands, etc, would it not be more appropriate to run it as a ‘special’ – a programme devoted to the subject for those who were truly interested? Not as a half-hour long news segment. As far as I could see, the ‘news’ part was all over in the first ten minutes.
* We weren’t in at the start of the story and I can almost guarantee that it went on for at least an hour, if not more. We stopped watching after 20 minutes.