Yesterday I flagged an independent film, a black satire, that tells the tale of a decent man who is sent into a homicidal rampage when the cruelty of the culture and especially the media overcomes him. I’m not to that point—yet—but the callousness of the national media in response to what it feels is consumer demand is oppressive.
I am going to omit names, graphics or links here, because I do not want to feed the phenomenon I am decrying.
A young woman, once an actress of some success but out of show business for more than four years, is obviously in the throes of some kind of mental illness, and has been for over a year. Today she had two separate episodes that signal serious health problems, and her parents are desperately trying to locate her and get her into treatment…again. Of course, such things happen every day, many times. If this occurs to a public figure or a current celebrity, it is legitimately news, but this young woman is not a public figure….not any more. She is someone who was famous once, and now is just sick. We should not know about anything that occurred today. I shouldn’t know about it. At this point in her career and life, she needs to be left alone.
Like most ex-child stars, she is addicted to attention; quite possibly the end of her performing career is related to her current health problems. In her case, this addiction manifests itself in a narcissistic devotion to prolific Twitter and Instagram use, but this is not, or should not be, an invitation to media intrusions. Her painful, sad, emotional collapses and repeated episodes of uncontrolled mental illness harm her in direct proportion to their exposure to public scrutiny. There is no basis for legitimate interest in her problems other than voyeurism, and the sick fascination with someone else’s catastrophes.
Unlike pop star Britney Spears, who had a similar mental and emotional collapse in the public eye, this ex-performer was never a superstar, nor was she, as Spears was at the time of her crisis, still nominally in show business. Unlike Lindsay Lohan when her tailspin began, she is not an actress considered on the rise, but one whose career had been in sharp decline long before the current problems began. In short, there is no reason that her desperate travails now should be played out on a national stage, except that…
- The news media thinks that people will be titillated by it, and
- The news media is probably correct.
The attention, however, is almost certainly harmful to the young woman, her chances of recovery, and her long-term welfare. Shouldn’t that matter more than a TMZ having cheap news flash to bleat out on a Friday afternoon? Battling mental illness and trying to find a place in the world following the weird privilege of child stardom must be hard enough, without having to cope as well with ongoing public humiliation. Is the media obligated to do wanton harm like this for such trivial gain? Does the fact that someone was once a celebrity justly lock that that person into the role of being a permanent source of sadistic pleasure, without any right to privacy, or to be shown decency, compassion and kindness from those who once looked up at her, and now can look down?