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‘This Train Won’t Stop…’ 12 years later, it’s still trundling on

Spouting off on the internet for over 16 years can throw up bits of writing worth repeating. This, sadly, is one of them. Twelve years ago, in the January of 2008, Heath Ledger died of an overdose. At the time, the world found itself in a state of shock. Today, it finds itself in the same headspace. In fact – with the omnipresence and mass addiction of social media – it has been exacerbated.

While most of the celebrities referenced in the below 2008 article (arguably)  passed under the mantle of “misadventure” (Amy Winehouse being one, who died three years later in 2011), there appears to be an increasing amount dying indisputably via suicide.

“‘OOoooOoh, you write a celebrity gossip column, that’s bound to be FUN!’ It’s rare that a positive thought enters my brain, but this is a regular occurrence when people learn what I do for a living. However, as time steamrolls on, the line between entertainment and unbridled voyeurism is becoming increasingly blurred. Prattling about who’s wearing (the face off) who, who’s back on the market or (even) who’s forgotten to put on underwear has morphed into watching Amy Winehouse smoking crack in her home, writing about the progress of Britney Spears‘ decline through her now constant use of an unspecified British accent, and reporting on a worrying amount of overdoses.

The destructive behaviour of celebrities, which often culminates in death by overdose, sadly isn’t a new phenomenon. Marilyn Monroe got the ball rolling a number of decades ago, Judy Garland, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, John Belushi, Kurt Cobain, River Phoenix, Chris Penn, Anna Nicole Smith and her son… we could go on and on. And it’s not just a ‘folly of youth’ thing, either – Ike Turner died of a cocaine overdose recently. Indeed, it’s not something new, but how we’re dealing with it is. The front cover of this week’s Heat magazine wears the headline ‘Britney: Dead in Six Months.’ Then there are websites like whenisbritneygoingtodie.com and whenwillamywinehousedie.com. If you get the date right you win a PS3 or an iPod Touch… Life has become so superficial, it’s only a matter of time before we come full circle and we’re back in Roman times – deciding if those trying to survive under the public’s glare live or die.

Who is to blame? Us for buying the magazines? If we collectively ceased reading headlines, would the press wheel stop or would they just start pushing more salacious content? Heath Ledger was found with sleeping pills and antihistamines beside his bed. He was reportedly suffering from pneumonia. The police and his family have both stated his death could’ve been accidental. Many media outlets, however, feel the need to ignore this, instead opting to report that “he was found naked.” Big whoop, he was in bed, lots of people sleep naked. “There was Xanex and Valium found on the premises.” Perhaps, but they could’ve belonged to anyone, as the apartment in question was not his.

Who else can we pin this on? The celebrities themselves? They asked for the fame and thus the constant glowering intrusion on their lives, yeah? Or how about their parents; those that court the media unashamedly, providing updates on their child’s battle with drugs, brokering deals with magazines for first dibs on pictures of their 16-year-old daughter’s baby, or constantly shoehorning their children into starring in reality shows?  Or how about Western societies where religion plays little part in lives anymore. Famine and hard graft are things of the past in our part of the planet, so we sit at our desks all day trying to keep our brains occupied… Surely the Internet isn’t to blame?!

Ok, so nothing’s been answered, I’ve just gratuitously ranted for the last 5 minutes and will probably take this down shortly after posting. No doubt Paris Hilton will do something else fantastically vacuous at SunDance tomorrow and the celebrity wheel of fortune will trundle on.”

And on. And on. And on… and on…

Rest in peace, Caroline.

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