Celebrity, News

Celebrity Deaths and Decorum

Most people were saddened to read about the passing of David Bowie, who succumbed to cancer on Sunday at the age of 69. My newsfeed has been sprinkled with links to YouTube videos of Bowie’s songs, various articles and blog posts written in tribute, and posted their favorite pictures. Someone I know decided to post an article about rock stars that slept with teenagers, accompanied by a very snide and snarky comment. While I am against people of a certain age sleeping with those that have “teen” in their age, you would’ve thought this person was talking about deceased BBC presenter Jimmy Savile.

It’s a tricky subject when talking about celebrities and past transgressions–you don’t want to forgive them simply because of their status and their wealth, especially after they’ve passed. Just because someone has died (whether or not they’re a celebrity or in the public eye otherwise) does not mean that they automatically enter sainthood. However, there is something to be said about the matter of decorum in a time like this. I know that pieces like the one the snarky Facebook friend posted are going to be popping up over the next few weeks, it’s par for the course. Yesterday was not that day.

I wouldn’t call myself a Bowie fan the same way I call myself a Queen or a Jenny Lewis fan. I don’t have any Bowie albums, tee-shirts, other memorabilia, but I can sing along to a few songs and did enjoy seeing him pop up on TV and in movies. I also think it’s pretty bitchin’ that my day job plays “Let’s Dance” twice a day. But that said, when I saw that my best friend had texted me “awww David Bowie” with a crying face emoji early yesterday morning, I knew it was bad. When I googled to confirm, I was sad. Not as sad as when Davy Jones died (The Monkees were my BSB/N*Sync in 6th grade,) but still sad.

So if I’m not a big Bowie fan, why did that pithy, bitchy comment piss me off so bad? Because it’s disrespectful. It was not the right time or place to post that list, to make Bowie fans that are already feeling shitty feel even worse. I mean, again, it’s bound to happen–for every nice article about Michael Jackson after he passed, there were several that felt the need to point out his scandals in the days following his death. I remember when Whitney Houston died, a different Facebook friend posted a very tasteless joke about Houston’s demons just minutes after the story broke (and it was intentional as this person referenced her death outright.)

Perhaps it is a coping mechanism–who expected to see “David Bowie Dies at 69” all over the news and social media yesterday?–and perhaps it is to point out that amongst all the heartfelt posts that again, Bowie was human. He fucked up too. Just because he’s dead doesn’t mean he’s instantly in the running for sainthood. But that said, the man was an artist and touched a lot of people’s lives. Most of the posts I’ve read talked about how Bowie’s music helped them feel not so lost, not like such a misfit thanks to Ziggy Stardust and other projects. Others talked about their sexual awakening thanks to his role as Jared the Goblin King in Labyrinth (1986.) Others posted/quoted their favorite songs. There’s no denying that Bowie had an impact, and not just for people of a certain age. 

Or, perhaps this person is looking for attention knowing that anything else they posted was going to get lost in the Bowie shuffle. And hey, it worked–this person’s post pissed me off so much, I wrote this post. But seriously, let’s be mindful of what we post in the wake of someone’s passing. This is a situation where if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. 

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Personal

Dealing With Death: One Year Later

During the redesign of LivLuna earlier this year, I had the task of deciding which posts would appear on the new LivLuna and which ones would not. When it came to my short series about dealing with my brother’s very unexpected death at the age of 30 last October, I opted not to move them. I thought they were too sad; that they would prevent me from moving on if they stayed up.

 

 

Now I wish I had kept them. This past year has been a mess. Although the official anniversary isn’t for another two weeks, it’s close enough. I had always told myself that I would write a “one year later” piece, where I’d hoped that I would be enlightened, changed for the better, so on and so forth. I’m not quite there yet, especially with the events that followed Matty’s passing–Superstorm Sandy (where I was in the middle of nowhere pretty much by myself,) my grandfather having a health scare, my grandmother passing away, my brother’s dog having to be put down, my dad being in the hospital for two weeks with bacterial pneumonia and not being able to go back to work for four months, my cousin losing his house in a freak lightning storm, all on top of the day to day. However, losing Matty is definitely at the top of our lists. That is the one we’re having the most trouble recovering from.

 

 

 

I was (and still am) determined that I was going to not let the sadness take over. He wouldn’t have wanted that, not wanted the family to fall apart because of his action. So I tried everything to help speed up the grief process–anti-depressants (never again) throwing myself into work, throwing myself into friendships, drinking, weekend getaways, smoking pot, online dating, hooking up, staying out all hours of the night, running for two hours a day, shopping to the point where I had -97¢ in my bank account. Nothing helped–it either blew up in my face completely, or else was a quick fix. The only thing that can help is time, and what sucks is that there is no definitive time frame for grief. You can’t say, “well, in four months, I’ll be here, in six months I’ll be there,” You just have to wait and see, really, and it can be hard. And I want to stress, that this is not about getting over the person–this about getting over the sadness, the anger you have about their passing.

 

 

Matty and his beloved Chuckie, 2010.

 

 

There have been some changes–after re-watching The Avengers in November (the last movie I saw with Matty,) and having a panic attack, I vowed never to see a comic book movie ever again as they were his favorite. In August, I got asked on a date to see The Wolverine. I agreed, and then got nervous–this wasn’t like being at a friend’s house, this in a theater with a stranger who could potentially be romantically interested in me. I wasn’t ready to be that vulnerable if I had a meltdown like I did in November, especially in a public setting. However, I couldn’t hide from the movies, especially one that I wanted to see. So, I kept the date, and…nothing happened. I was fine. I loved the movie, and knew he would have loved it too. Although that’s a small example, it is still a big step, and it makes me feel human, that things are going to be okay.

 

 

I would like to believe that once the anniversary passes, when the majority of firsts will have passed, we’ll be able to really move on. Right now, we’re all in a weird place. I feel like I’m reliving certain grieving points from the year at warp speed. But what is really going to happen on October 8th? As much as I think he would have loved it, I don’t think zombie Matty is going to show up at the house, or the earth is going to swallow us whole. Yet, we’re all feeling this anxiety, like something big is going to happen, but we’re not quite sure what.

 

 

I wish I could offer more enlightenment, but honestly, the only thing I can say is that you have to let time be your friend.You are the only one who can manage your grief, and if other people don’t like it, too bad. As for things to help you move on, they’re distractions, they’re not real solutions. Distractions can be good, they’re necessary–if it weren’t for work or my friends, I probably would be a hermit, hiding out in my room and smoking up all day. But that’s hiding, and you can’t do that. The deceased wouldn’t want you to.

 

 

And as for you, Matty, we love you very much and miss you every day. That will never, ever change, no matter how much time passes.

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Political

Why I Can’t Say Anything Nice About Margaret Thatcher

When news broke of Margaret Thatcher’s death on Monday, my first thought was to write a small obituary the way we did for Gerda Lerner and Rita Levi-Montalcini. However, when it came time to say something nice like “she will be missed” or “what a great leader she was,” I couldn’t do it. I just could not do it. Why? While it was great that she was the first woman and the longest serving British prime minister of the 20th century, and it was sad that she suffered so many strokes over the past eleven years and is leaving a family behind, when you look more closely at what she accomplished while she was in power, she was far from the great leader many of her obituaries are making her out to be.

 

 

The biggest offense for me was the way she treated laborers and labor unions, instead choosing to focus on the individual, Although people did become home-owners, entrepreneurs, and bankers due to her approach, even more people became unemployed as well, especially in northern England–by closing factories and cutting social spending, Manchester quickly made a turn for the worse. In 1982, its unemployment rate was 32 percent. The greater Manchester area lost almost a fifth of its manufacturing jobs during the 1980s, and more than 125,000 people moved away. From 1979 to 1993, the poverty rate in Britain tripled. In the mid-90s, a U.N. report found that Great Britain had the most unequal society in the West.

 

 

 

Really? We’re supposed to celebrate a leader who hurt a great percentage of her population so she help give a leg up to some of the richest people in the world? It makes me furious. Yes, this is something that still goes on, but really? No wonder my dad’s response upon hearing the news of her death was “my heart is as broken as the lives of the laborers she destroyed.” Why should we give tribute to a leader who chose to hurt her country and not to really help it?

 

 

 

I could go on in great detail with other valid reasons why I can’t celebrate Thatcher–the Falklands, her friendship with leaders like Augusto Pinochet, the way she handled the Troubles in Northern Ireland (particularly the 1981 Irish Hunger strike) her stance against the unification of East and West Germany, the way she wouldn’t acknowledge the struggles of women while in a position of leadership herself (she didn’t believe in the glass ceiling)–but the labor one is the one that makes me the most angry. I feel she deliberately hurt her people, the ones she was supposed to be protecting, with her elimination of industry and the promotion of the individual over the group effort.

 

When politicians talk about the emphasis of the individual, they really mean one specific group of people–people who don’t really need anything as they’re well off to begin with. This is nothing new, and Thatcher wasn’t the only politician who followed this Rand-ian model of leadership, and she certainly won’t be the last. But I can’t sit here and say, “oh wow, Thatcher sure fucked up and helped set the tone for the current global political climate, but since she was a woman, I have to applaud her, she really made great strides for us. Who cares if she destroyed her people? Yay for firsts!” Nope. I can’t do that. Just because she was a woman doesn’t mean I have to agree with or even like her (in case I didn’t make that clear.) And thus, this is why I can’t say anything nice about her.

 

 

So, what’s your take? UK based readers, did I miss anything significant?

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