Every year, 26,000 babies are stillborn in America. In 2003, one of them was my son.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Cult of Celebrity

So. Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson died today.

Do you think I care? No, I do not. Sad for their families, but it matters not a bit to me.

I don't get the "cult of celebrity" thing. Why are we so wrapped up in the lives of people we will never meet, people we only see on television, or on stages hundreds of feet away? Do we know them? No, I don't think we do.

I was in England on the day Diana died. Living there with my husband. It was my 28th birthday, and we, Luddites at the time, watched TV on a very limited basis (once a week, maybe) and hadn't turned on the radio that day. We were having a lovely day, out and about, seeing beautiful things, having tea, enjoying ourselves. I remember that we saw a church with the flag flying at half mast, and figured someone had died.

Indeed, someone had.

At the time, I worked in London, and spent 3 hours a day on trains from our little village, into London, where I switched to the Underground. All that week, people sat on those trains, some of them holding flowers, many of them weeping. And I thought, why? Did you know her? How did she improve your life? I may sound callous, but, really--who was she to you, other than some woman who married a prince and happened to be reasonably attractive? I think Diana, like any other celebrity, knew how to work the media, knew how to make herself more appealing, knew how to, perhaps, use the public for her own goals.

And yes, she was the mother of two young boys, and I do believe she loved them with all her heart. I'm not disputing that. But we didn't know her, none of us. Didn't know her faults (for surely she had them), didn't know her weaknesses, didn't know who she genuinely was. Anymore than we know who Farrah and Michael were. I suspect that the passing of Michael Jackson will elicit something of the cult-like devotion and hysteria that followed Diana's death, and once again, I will be amazed by it.

Do you remember when Ronald Reagan died? I remember the day of his funeral, turning on PBS for Charlotte to watch one of the children's programs, and instead there was his funeral procession. Thousands of people standing in the streets, newscasters from all over commentating on the spectacle of the hearse going by, the funeral aired on TV.

And all I could think was, weeks past Ben's death--why did the world not stop in this way for my son?


Monica H said...

It all amazes me too. I think it's sad when anyone dies but I don't quite understand it either. Perhaps they mourn for their own selfish reasons, for never getting to see them in future movies or in concert. I guess when it's unexpected, it's a little shocking and maybe why that's people are so emotional. I don't know.

But I wish the world stopped for my sons too. I really didn't understand how they could move on when my world was standing still and my heart was completely broken. Maybe it was selfish of me to expect that.

c. said...

I wish I could have made the world stop and take pause when C died. To feel his death as intensely as I did. I think back to those days and weeks after my son's death and wonder now, so many months after, if he really mattered to anyone at all but me.

Mommy (You can call me OM) said...

I too am mostly in awe of the cult of celebrity. But, as I read your post it did occur to me that perhaps certain celebrities create an outlet for people. Perhaps Michael Jackson's music got them through a tough time or gave them confidence. Perhaps Diana represented a fantasy come true --- non-royalty becoming royal. I can't say that any of these people particularly resonate with me, but maybe another celebrity will one day.

I guess I somehow thought of Michael Jackson as already dead. I cannot imagine he would have produced any more music that would even rival Thriller, etc.

I heard a horrible joke yesterday. Should I even repeat it? I'm not into 'dead' jokes, but I did let out a bit of a chuckle when I heard it. Feel free to delete it from your comments if you hate it. "What do Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett want for Christmas?" "Patrick Swayze"

(Thank you for your supportive and loving comments on my blog. I appreciate every word.)

And, I know how it feels to wonder why the world didn't stop along with you when your baby died. I was a bit confused by that when I lost E. My life stopped, yet the world continued.


Virginia said...

Mommy OM - that is an awful joke, but it made me laugh!

I think you're right about celebrities filling a need for some people, but I just don't get it. It's a complete mystery to me.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Just found your site and skipping around reading some. This last part about wondering why the world did not stop when your baby died is so easy for me to relate to. Our baby was stillborn at 39 weeks. I remember while I was still staying in the hospital recovering my husband and I went for a short walk outside on the grounds. I remember feeling utterly shocked at the hot, sunny day and all the people walking around as if the world was normal. Indeed it was not for us. I will never forget that utter disbelief, not the last of many shocking feelings and sensations.