Thursday, March 24, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor's Death Demonstrates the Folly of Media Celebrity Worship

Film legend Elizabeth Taylor died at the age of 79, and I feel sympathy for her family and friends as I would for anyone who has lost a loved-one.  However, the news media coverage reminds me of everything that bothers me about the celebrity worship in our modern day media.

I have nothing against Taylor;  I didn't know her at all except from what I saw in the media and read in newspapers and magazines.  Since I know how distorted the media can be, I don't believe I ever came close to knowing the real person. 

To those who loved her, she may have been the most wonderful person who ever lived.  To movie fans, she obviously was a star bigger than life, and to movie critics, she seemed to be very talented.  Nevertheless, she didn't discover the polio vaccine; she didn't engineer a peace accord between two waring countries; nor did she invent a technological device that changes the way we live.  She was a movie star, nothing more to most people and nothing less.

None of that matters to a news media that seems intent on celebrating the lives of people in a way that is inversely proportional to their worth to society.  When great doctors and researchers who have made life-saving discoveries die, the media gives a brief mention, but doesn't spend hours interviewing friends and families about their substantial impact on the quality of all of our lives.  However, when a media-created celebrity dies, we are all expected to be in mourning and are subjected to hours and hours of media retrospectives on that person's life (remember Michael Jackson's death?).

It is ironic that two of the major celebrities that have died in recent years, Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor, played major roles in one of the silliest television programs my wife and I ever watched.  In the mid-90s, Diane Sawyer hosted a special on ABC to basically convince the public that Michael Jackson was a far more normal person than we were led to believe.  During the special, Elizabeth Taylor was interviewed at length, supposedly to be the major character reference for the pop star.

When the show ended, I related to my wife that it is just like the celebrity worshiping media to insult our intelligence.  Just think about it.  Diane Sawyer used a woman who was married eight times to seven different men (Richard Burton twice) and had been in and out of several addiction clinics to convince the American public that Michael Jackson was normal.

As I said earlier in this post, I have nothing against Elizabeth Taylor.  I hope she rests in peace and her family and friends have warm memories to last a lifetime, but, by her own admission, she was hardly the epitome of emotional or behavioral stability.  Yet she was the person Diane Sawyer picked in an attempt to convince the rest of us that Michael Jackson was just a normal person like you and me.  What world do these media people live in?

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