I once knew a man who was a terrible father, never cared to be a grandfather, and always found something wrong in everything. The funniest thing to me was at his funeral, everyone was digging deep to find something good to say about him. No one would just say it how it was: He was rarely good to anyone (including himself) and really brought nothing to the table. It was as though to speak only good things would somehow make him change into a better person postmortem. This is, of course, just a delusion on the part of the living.
It seems we wait for people to die just so we can build them up as something they never were. This is mostly just to make us feel better for all the ill will we may have wished them in life, a carry over of the guilt we are told to carry with us for not making the amends we are told we are supposed to make.
And now, as we are making Amy Winehouse into a tragically misunderstood tattooed babydoll, it seems to be an attempt to make up for all the tabloids we read in disgust highlighting every binge and party. This week her albums will hold several top slots on the Billboard charts for the first time in years, as everyone hops on the “She’s so amazing!” bandwagon. We are on the edge of our seats waiting for the toxicology reports to come back positive for something. All so we can say “I knew it!” She has become just another news story for us to objectify, to try to make her death stand for something. Because, if her death is something that just ‘happened’, it somehow has less meaning for us. Nevermind the meaning her life had to family and friends who tried to help her time and again. It’s about us– the audience- and we want drama!
The truth is, Amy Winehouse was talented young woman who cut her life short because of an addiction she could not shake, regardless of the awaited toxicology results. To romanticize her death is only deluding ourselves, only feeding the culture of addiction. In response to his friend Amy’s death, British comedian Russell Brand put it succinctly:
“Now Amy Winehouse is dead, like many others whose unnecessary deaths have been retrospectively romanticised, at 27 years old. Whether this tragedy was preventable or not is now irrelevant. It is not preventable today. We have lost a beautiful and talented woman to this disease. Not all addicts have Amy’s incredible talent. Or Kurt’s or Jimi’s or Janis’s, some people just get the affliction. All we can do is adapt the way we view this condition, not as a crime or a romantic affectation but as a disease that will kill.”