This is a guest post by Kathy Iandoli. Kathy has written for MSN Music, Village Voice, Bust, VIBE, and other publications. She is a writer in the New York City area.
There seems to be this recycled response when a female celebrity dies from anything other than an accident, illness or old age: “She couldn’t handle the fame.”
It’s not the fame that is the problem; it’s the symptoms that are derived from it. Just like an AIDS patient might die from “pneumonia,” fame might be the disease, but it certainly doesn’t kill the person – everyone else does. The real tragedy outside the loss of a life is that even in their passing, female celebrities are subjected to the same level of scrutiny that enveloped their careers on earth. Whitney Houston’s death on Saturday night – while many globally mourned her – was still met with snarky and heartless jabs about her drug addiction in the same juvenile manner following Amy Winehouse’s death. And what was it that killed them both? Oh yes, “fame.” Showing up to movie sets, recording albums, performing onstage, managing a family in the public eye – all of these things drove Ms. Whitney Houston to substance abuse, which ultimately killed her. “Crack is cheap,” was the quote that haunted Houston for the duration of her career, followed by rumors of freebasing and chasing wine with designer drugs. This lifestyle was the direct result of her inability to “handle the fame.” Or so we are led to believe.
When a male celebrity is caught red-nosed, it’s for one of two reasons – it either enhances his creative genius (Miles Davis, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix) or it makes him sporadically awesome (Chris Farley, John Belushi). The eulogy for the aforementioned includes a “live fast die young” mentality, while women in the same state (Billie Holiday, Janis Joplin, Marilyn Monroe) are ticking time bombs waiting for the journey six feet under. Is that really what we’re made for? To give life and then sit under a microscope while the world awaits the end of ours? There has yet to be a pool for Charlie Sheen’s death the way there was one for Amy Winehouse. But he’s, duh, winning. Sheen’s a part of the age-old examples of men who haven’t died despite sharing the same afflictions as their female counterparts. What’s preserving them? Their gender?
Testosterone isn’t keeping Mick Jagger alive. It’s pure luck.
Meanwhile, when male celebrities die, it’s such a “shock.” Even the King Of Pop Michael Jackson’s passing was so surprising despite his years-long partner named Prednisone. He didn’t die from “fame” though. He was “murdered.”
As we mourn yet another passing of a star, let’s all keep something in mind: fame kills no gender more than the other, and berating them in their afterlife won’t promote that ill-informed theory. No one really knows what brings a celebrity to self-inflicted pain, but assumptions won’t bring them back.
Rest In Peace, Whitney Houston.