Re-post But What if You’re An Asshole?

Whitney Houston was found dead yesterday at the age of 48. This is another celebrity death I was not shocked to read about. This woman was living like she wanted to die for decades. The sad thing here, for me, was how she squandered, not only her talent, but the opportunities afforded to her.

Reading the news inspired me to re-post my feelings about how we immediately forget about all the crappy behavior a person has engaged in once they have died.


Bill Cosby had this great joke (the only one in which he used profanity). He asked someone what was so great about using cocaine, the person replied it enhances your personality. His response was , but what it you’re an asshole?

I have always loved this joke. The punch line, for me, now becomes the question I ask when someone dies, and people begin to canonize him/her without merit. For example Amy Winehouse was a very talented singer with a unique voice and I am sure she is missed by her family and friends, but let’s get real. Was anyone really that shocked when she died? The way she lived her life, it was like she was begging for death.

Then there’s Michael Jackson, another very talented singer, dancer and performer. His childhood was far less than perfect. He grew into someone who used drugs as a crutch for his issues instead of facing them with strength and moving past them (which I would have actually admired). But now our hearts are supposed to bleed because he was to weak natured to overcome his demons.

Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley are examples of the very same behavior. I still don’t understand the fascination we have with the emotionally weak and famous. Fewer people mourned the passing of Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi, people who actually turned their, much worse, situations into wonderful acts of strength and kindness.

Could it be because these celebrities died young(er) that society sees it as so tragic? Or is it that we love to see this in a morbid, Schadenfreude kind of way? If we can’t be famous, then fame and happiness shouldn’t be allowed to coexist, so we are secretly celebrating the passing of these celebrities because it serves them right for pissing away the opportunity that we would sell our soul to have knock on our door?

I understand the impulse to celebrate someone’s life after they die, but let’s actually celebrate the WHOLE PERSON. Warts and all. After all, the sooner we can collectively embrace our humanity the better off we will be as a society. It’s easier to change something when you stop making excuses and see it for what it really is.

7 thoughts on “Re-post But What if You’re An Asshole?

  1. I totally agree.

    Here’s the problem: the media hasn’t figured out a way to have a nuanced conclusion to an argument.

    A topic can only have two opinions, both opposing each other, and you have to pick which side to be on.

    It’s easier to eat your TV Dinner that way, I guess.

  2. I recall the reaction in England when Princess Diana died. The entire country went insane. For years, she had been villified in the media, and yet as soon as she was dead, she suddenly became this wonderful person that could do no wrong.

    There was a rather controversial documentary about how the nation reacted, but unfortunately I cannot find it anywhere. I did manage to find a couple of related articles though…

  3. I agree that it’s hypocritical and ludicrous to sanctify someone after their death purely because of their death. I think what makes me sad about cases like Whitney Houston’s is that in a society like this having a great talent can actually be what saddens and shortens a life. I hesitate to judge someone as weak or ‘asking for’ death based on the fact that they couldn’t overcome addiction.

  4. Kinda related. I had the same feeling when I saw news stories of Michael Jackson fans protesting his innocence before he’d even stepped foot in a court, merely because they liked his music. Crazy!

  5. Another similar example: Steve Jobs suddenly becomes a visionary and hero when he passes away. While the true hero, Dennis Ritchie who created the C programming language and the Unix operating system goes unsung.

  6. Michael Jackson didn’t do anything worthwhile in 20 years when he died. That’s what I don’t get. People act as if I should appreciate him. I wasn’t alive when he was black. To me he’s always been comedy fodder. People need to get knocked off their high horses.

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