‘The Big Picture’
Last week, a helicopter collision over the California-Arizona line claimed the lives of seven Marines awaiting deployment to Afghanistan.
These were seven American heroes willing to give their lives for their country.
But the death of a drug addict has monopolized mainstream media so much that you may not have heard about the Marines.
In American culture, we glorify stories of celebrities who perish in a bizarre or untimely fashion.
In the case of Whitney Houston, who died in her hotel bathtub after consuming a dangerous cocktail of Valium, Xanax and alcohol, the media made it clear that the story will be milked for all it is worth.
The BBC aired a live stream of Houston’s entire funeral, sparking complaints from viewers that the network was drifting from important news coverage to highlight an event that should have been private.
One viewer called the BBC’s coverage “voyeuristic” and suggested the network return to “real news.”
There is no question that Houston was a musical phenomenon. Guinness World Records lists her as the most decorated female artist in history, with 415 awards throughout her career.
But now, because the media chose to dwell on her cause of death instead of her famed career, Houston will be most remembered for overdosing in a hotel bathtub.
And because Houston’s death was both shocking and easy to understand, people pined for it and got distracted from the news that really means something in our everyday lives.
Consider how much you know about Houston’s death. Then, consider how much you know about Iran’s fight to retain its nuclear program, or its attempts to enact a gas embargo on European countries.
Hopefully, you are much more up to speed with the latter, but I doubt that’s the case.
If we can agree that Iran’s instability is more important than a deceased diva, then media coverage should reflect that.
Todd Franko, editor of The Vindicator, said stories relevant to the public need to be covered.
“When you look at Whitney Houston in the entertainment world, she definitely has a tormented kind of soul that people are interested in,” Franko said. “When you cover it, is one day too much? Is one week too much? There really is no perfect amount of time.”
In a perfect world, there would be no unsung heroes; the ones who perish fighting for their country, or die young due to an incurable disease, would always get the tribute they deserve.
But in such an imperfect existence — one where stories of bravery and tragedy often go untold — how much sympathy and attention should we give to a substance abuser who sang songs and acted in a movie or two?
Sophomore Linda Borrelli followed the coverage of Houston’s death and said it has been “over publicized” and “dramatized.”
“Yes, she contributed a lot to the music scene, but she also contributed to her own death,” Borrelli said. “It’s sad seeing how caught up people get by a death of someone they don’t even know.”
Kudos to the producers of this year’s Grammy Awards for altering the show on such short notice to accommodate a tribute to Houston’s legacy; that is her arena, and there is perhaps no higher testament to her musical gift than the fact that the tribute was executed by performers she inspired.
Sad as it may be, all of the attention her death is receiving has clouded our perception of what events in the world are important to follow.
It is simply time to move on.
All of the memories we need of Houston are forever preserved through the music she made, not through the news coverage of her pitiable passing.
Maybe this is just born from America’s obsession with the rich and talented, but the truth is, Houston squandered her talent in a Heath Ledger-Amy Winehouse form by abusing her body with drugs and alcohol. And with all the world’s unsung heroes in mind, we must remember Whitney Houston was a singer, not a saint.