Ponderings about celebrity culture and values

A friend of mine bemoaned the fact that we will now have 24/7 coverage of Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon. His point that this celebrity coverage usurps the media time for more important events---protests in Iran, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, health care debate---is a valid point. On the other hand, I would say culture even pop culture forms us and plays a significant role in forming our values.

How can we balance the need for art, music, dance (all of which this celebrity threesome contributed to whether you value their styles or not) with the need for critiquing the culture, mourning the deaths of three human beings, getting our news about weighty matters. My answer, as always, points us back to our values. And the good news is that if Michael Jackson tributes are not your value, there are certainly enough media choices in today's world that you can move on and find options that fit your values.

My friend, Amy and I who have both lost significant persons in our lives have determined that we will scan the obituaries as a tribute to the lives that have been lived and the hurting people those lives left behind. It's a small act to honor the value of human life. So I will scan a story about Michael, Farrah and Ed and then move on to health care.

updated: 7 years ago


TracyWednesday, July 1st 2009 5:07PM

I find this essay interesting. I, myself, was caught up in the media blitz this produced. Interestingly enough, MJ and Farrah both died on my birthday. It made me painfully aware of how many people were aware of my place in the aging process because so many of them had to call me to make sure I'd heard these celebrities died on my birthday.

I have had that moment in the mornings when I'm trying to get in my media fix to find out what is going on in the world only to hear about Paris Hilton or Brittany Spears' latest exploits. I groan and walk away from the Television in frustration and turn to NPR. The media options out there are certainly many, but what about those of us who just want to hear the NEWS and don't want 900 channels to have it?

I think what is considered news by the media does reflect what our culture sees as its values. This concerns me. I don't long for some by-gone era, but I do long for a cultural revolution.

My 2 cents worth--I'm sure some of you are waiting for change.

Larger than lifeSunday, June 28th 2009 7:24AM

Even Ed McMahon, least famous of the 3 recent celeb deaths had quite the life as a pitchman, and new talent host, and 85 combat flights and instructor in WWII and Korean War).  Farah Fawcett was more than a model - actress, activist, sex symbol and all around nice person.  I know the MJ 24/7 is annoying but he did affect a generation and set a very high bar when it came to singing and dancing.  His videos created a new genre - and by most accounts another 'nice' person with some disturbing behaviors (prescription drugs, charges of molestation).   I think these folks, like all obits, remind us that our days are numbered, we will all die at some point, and at that time what will we have accomplished - what will people remember about us?

Interesting perspective on the obits. My objective in reading the obits is to honor those who have died. You're saying the objective is to be reminded that we are also mortal. Wonderful juxtaposition of two valid and helpful motives.

Thanks for adding to the conversation.


press coverage of MJ and FFSaturday, June 27th 2009 1:16PM

Your comment that you read the obituaries to see what people's lives have been seems to resonate with me.  Many merely say, "born, lived, died and was buried." Others go on and on about the deceased's many achievements in life or what others have said or thought about him or her.  Perhaps it is because as one approaches the vale, one focuses on what one would like to see in one's own obit.  That taking stock is healthy, I think, in one 70 or over, but not a fixation that a 25 year-old just coming into his own should have to endure.  What is real "news" to each of us varies as much between persons as between countries.

So nice to have multiple contributions to the conversation. As one who is closer "to the vale" than I would like to be, I'm not so much concerned about what will appear in my obituary as I am what will ocurr in the hearts of those that I have been in relationship to in this life.


ElisaFriday, June 26th 2009 6:34PM

Once again, I have accidentally called my good friend "Barbara" instead of "Brenda". I have no excuses. Please, BRENDA, forgive me 1000 times over.

No aplogy needed. You're not the first to call me Barbara nor will you be the last. There must be a trigger in the name Bartella which causes folks to think Barbara.

ElisaFriday, June 26th 2009 1:24PM

The key, as you mentioned, Barbara, is *balance*. We can certainly pay tribute to the entertainers we group up with. It's not so much that we celebrate their lives as much as we celebrate the nostalgia of our own: enjoying the late night banter between Ed and Johnny, feathering our hair in that classic Faarah way (and wanting to be hairdressers as a result), or dancing to a Michael Jackson song. For most, these elicit fond memories.

You can turn to more pressing human issues on tv, but you can also take a moment to reflect on your own place and time in this world!