Killing a Celebrity

"The moral nihilism of celebrity culture is played out on reality television shows, most of which encourage a dark voyeurism into other people's humiliation, pain, weakness, and betrayal"
Chris Hedges in "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and Triumph of Spectacle"

The tragic death of pop icon Whitney Houston this past weekend was heartbreaking, but not surprising.  Her struggles with drugs, alcohol, and recklessness has been well documented and popularized over the past decade.  Her life and death are tributes to America's celebrity culture, where lives become valued for their entertainment over and against their intrinsic value.

"Being Bobby Brown" aired on the Bravo Network from 2005 through 2007.  The show was immensely popular and was a reality series looking at the life of Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston.  Critics on NBC's today showed characterized the show as "disgusting and crude".  Although I never watched the show, I did see bits and pieces from recommendations of friends and co-workers.  The show revealed the incredible dysfunction and downward spiral of a family trying to live up to the facade of glamour while using drugs, alcohol, profanity, and crudeness to numb the pain away.

Yes, America watched and laughed and ridiculed as their pain, their ineptness, and their ignorance became apparent.  No one cared, no righteous indignation voiced....  Just as long as it was entertaining, we were content.

We use celebrities to either project our desires and aspirations onto, or to feel better about ourselves.  Their lives become entities to consume rather than people deserving compassion and love.  The objectification of celebrities is seen every week in the presidential election.  The candidates are not real people, but things that are for our entertainment pleasure.  We aspire to be like some and viciously insult others.

Culture helped kill Whitney Houston.  I don't mean that culture is totally responsible for her death, but her lifestyle and its ugly sequalae were encouraged, applauded, and rewarded by our celebrity culture and our need to place entertainment and amusement over compassion and concern.

Can we begin to see people on MTV as real people?  How about the "Real Housewives"?  Can we see much of reality TV as a sign of our own sick souls?  Our need to divert our attention from our own pain, melancholy, and confusion makes degrading and humiliating shows, such as "Being Bobby Brown" possible.

I pray that your eyes will be opened to see the humanity in a culture that wants to dehumanize everything thing from our consumption and entertainment.  For Whitney, its too late.

Dare to make a difference today,

Pastor M Traylor