To lose their lives out on a limb…

[1] Brittany Murphy died a few weeks ago at the age of 32. I do not mean to exploit her in any way. The speculation surrounding her untimely passing just provides an example of a social problem that I feel needs addressing.

When news broke of Brittany Murphy’s death, there was speculation about drug use and/or an apparent eating disorder. This type of speculation always happens when a celebrity dies. Her husband and her mother did an interview this morning on the Today Show.

Let me say first, I don’t think they should feel the need to speak about their wife/daughter’s death. It’s personal for them and just because Brittany Murphy starred in movies (and, my personal favorite, was the voice of Luanne), it doesn’t mean that the public has to have an explanation of her death that goes beyond the public record/coroner’s report.

During the interview, her family denied that Brittany had either a drug problem or an eating disorder. I don’t doubt that they believed these statements. Brittany Murphy was frighteningly thin at some of her last public appearances, but this could be due to a lot of factors, only two of which being drugs or an eating disorder. I don’t know if either of these were the case, and I’m not going to speculate.

What does bother me is this:

Almost no one in this situation will ever admit that their loved one has/had a drug problem, an eating disorder, or any type of mental illness.

What are we so ashamed of?

There is still an unfortunate stigma attached with problems of the mind, and it’s disheartening. One shouldn’t be ashamed of an eating disorder or a drug addiction or depression or schizophrenia or any such “problem.” Nor should family members try to deny it, for whatever reason. It’s not your fault if someone you love has a mental illness of any sort. Nor does it mean that they cannot live a reasonable life or gain any sense of well-being. They just might need some help.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

The problem is that we see these things as “illnesses” that carry stigma in the first place.

[1]Title taken from “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley… yes, I know it’s in poor taste.

Up, Up and Away…

I used to be more on the pulse of what’s going on in the world. I still watch the news, read news websites, and even sometimes read the newspaper, but I don’t really feel informed.

The problem is that when I turn to any of these outlets, I cannot shake the feeling that I’m being brainwashed. I’m being told what is important. I’m being given the soundbite version of events. From what little I know about journalism, I know that traditionally in the first paragraph of a news article, you need to get across the who, what, when, where and why. Yet, when I read news stories anymore, I am almost always acutely aware that I’m getting information filtered through someone’s viewpoint.

Some news outlets are better than others, but it seems that all of the major news outlets cover the exact same stories, and they are willing to do anything to have their version of the story stand out. The result is bad reporting, and me having to uncomfortably watch microphones being shoved in people’s faces while they grieve, for example. I wonder if the competition to be on the scene first and to have the most viewers or readers is what really drives the information I’m receiving.
Take the “balloon boy” story, for instance. I was not sitting around my TV watching and waiting for the balloon to land, but I do admit when I first heard that the boy was safe, I felt relieved.

As the hoax has unfolded and the parents have plead guilty, I realized that I’m not angry or outraged at the Heene family’s behavior. Yes, I think it’s sick that one would exploit their children to gain fame. (Though, parents of pop stars and child actors have been doing this for years.) But, the Heene’s are just a product of the environment created by our constant need for “news,” to be connected and in the know, and our obsession with celebrity.

Being bombarded with information, and often mindless information, it’s no wonder everyone thinks they can get on TV. It’s also no wonder that people go to drastic measures to do it. I hope the Heene’s case sets a precedent, but it’s more likely that people will just get more creative with their hoaxes.

What I’m struggling to understand in all of this is “why?”

Is it weird that I have no desire to be on television?

Or that I have no want for people to recognize me, or know who I am without me knowing them?

Does my desire for anonymity make me a freak?

Overexposed, Commercialized

“You know, my kids think you’re the greatest, and thanks to your gloomy music, they’ve finally stopped dreaming of a future I can’t possibly provide.” – Homer Simpson to Billy Corgan

Children and teenagers are different today than they were when I was a kid.  I think I grew up in the cusp of this change, but when I was in high school, kids didn’t have cell phones, or blogs, or TMZ or overexposure.  This was in the days when instant messaging was still innovative (We used ICQ), and before cable modems and DSL were the norm.  Where my generation, we children of the 80s, was disaffected, this younger generation seems almost over-affected.

I think when it comes down to it, Rousseau was right about a lot of things.  Children are exposed to too much, too soon.  They lose the innocence that comes with being young.  They learn fear at an early age.  Parents are more over-bearing, more over-protective, or at least they think they are being so… but the real problem is that the world has changed so rapidly, that parents don’t know what to do to “protect” their children anymore.  And so most attempts are misguided.

The thing is, kids are going to be okay.

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