Saturday, January 26, 2008

Thoughts on Celebrity Lives and Deaths

I didn't want to write this, honestly I didn't. But this weeks news of the death of an actor at the peak of his career and at a tender age has caused me severe indigestion.

I've learned to live with the fact that society is obsessed with the lives of celebrities (actors, musicians and sports people).
I've learned to accept that success and excess of celebrity lives has an endless fascination for observers.
I've accepted that the more famous somebody becomes, the more frenzied the media coverage when that celebrity shows human frailty and failings. Surprise, shock, horror and the smug reassurance that all that wealth and fame that we don't have isn't helping those we idolize to deal with life. How incredible that they have the same problems as us ordinary folk?

What I cannot stomach is the inevitable tendency to create a legend around any celebrity that has the misfortune to die young. Dying young is the best career move any celebrity could make.
This trend has developed so quickly that withing a week of his dying, I'm reading of the "genius" of Heath Ledger. In the great tradition that began with Rudolph Valentino, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Elvis Presley, Diana and others, is the process of building a larger than life (a reputation that could never grow so big if they were alive or lived to ripe old age).

I mourn for Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson and Madonna who either had the bad taste to live too long or are still showing no signs of giving up the ghost. Just imagine what gigantic reputation they would have created by dying young.

Nobody likes to see the famous fade away into ripe old age. Consider what legends Bridget Bardot (who?) might have been if she had the good taste to die at the peak of her fame.
Consider anyone that was once famous but no longer is well known and the chances are that they lived to a ripe old age. How unfortunate.

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