onlyyyTue May 19,
Posted by Hal
9 million viewers tuned in to watch Farrah Fawcett dying of cancer, which makes Farrah, according to some commentators, our Jade Goody.
Goody, you probably recall, was the British Reality TV star best known (until her resurgence courtesy of cancer) for racist comments spewed on Big Brother All Stars UK.
Goody, like Farrah, went with the televised death route. (Said Goody: “I’ve lived my whole adult life talking about my life. The only difference is that I’m talking about my death now. It’s OK.”) General reaction to the decision of Goody and Farrah to televise their dying has been knee-jerk: it’s courageous and brave. (“‘Farrah’s Story’ a tale of inner strength,” said MSNBC.) Plus they do it to raise awareness of “insert type of cancer here”.
This, of course, is nonsense. If Fawcett wanted to raise awareness of the rare form of cancer that will soon take her life, there are a lot better ways to do it than make a reality tv movie-of-the-week described by the New York Times as “awful because it was an exploitative portrait of a celebrity’s fight with cancer.”
The Times critique continues: “... NBC took Ms. Fawcett’s candid video diary and allowed it to be packaged as a generic VH1 ‘Behind the Music’ biography — maudlin music, gauzy slow-motion film, and pseudo-revealing interviews with friends, coworkers, doctors and hairdressers reminiscing about a former star.”
I’m fascinated by the way Peep Culture is changing our approach to death. (This deserves much longer consideration…I’d like to find a venue interested in a longer piece on this.) In Peep, death, once consigned to the shadows, it’s now the last frontier of spot light entertainment. If somebody’s slow lingering death can be packaged into mainstream corporate entertainment, then, let’s face it, anything can be packaged and turned into televised product. Plus the dying have a marketing advantage: no matter how good or bad it is, people will tune in because they know it’s the grand finale.
This isn’t Farrah Fawcett’s first foray into Reality TV. Nor was Jade Goody’s 3 part mini-series long goodbye some neophyte attempt to break into the business and fulfill a final dream. In fact, Goody publically stated her desire to milk every last drop of her fame to earn as much money as possible for her family before she died. (It’s like Walt in Breaking Bad – anything is permissible if you’re dying and doing it for your family.)
In the end, these are seasoned veterans of the small screen who can’t, won’t or don’t want to let go of the limelight.
“She deserves a different, less exploitative television tribute,” the New York Times said of Farrah’s special. I’m not sure she does.
Hey, I’m Hal Niedzviecki. I’m a writer/thinker who lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada with my wife and daughter. Up till now I’ve always considered myself a private person. But at the same time I’m fascinated by people who effortlessly open themselves up to the whole world. So I’ve… more...
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