Regarding Train Wrecks …

Michael Jackson. Princess Diana. Danny Bonaduce. Anna Nicole Smith. Britney Spears.

Through the vulture eyes of the media, we watch the lives (and deaths) of famous people. If we watch television at all, or even visit the grocery store, it’s unavoidable. It’s almost a vampiric obsession; we we tune in to Entertainment Tonight and receive our daily ration of psychic energy, sucked straight through the camera lens from the life of some famous train wreck. (Since when is it “entertainment” to watch the tragic events of a person’s life?)

The latest is Andrew Dice Clay, and his new television show. God, I thought we were rid of him years ago, but here he comes, rising from the depths like a leather jacket leviathan, hoping to feed on us as we feed on him in an ouroboros cycle. We get to see a train wreck as it happens, he gets money and fame, which contributes to the train wreck, which gets hime more money and fame.

It’s easy to blame the media and paparazzi for this. After all, they are the ones really profiting from the focus on disturbed celebrities. But it’s important to remember that the reason they profit is because we tune in. We buy the magazines. We talk about this stuff around the water cooler.

In short, we are responsible, to a large degree, for the demise of these people’s lives. Yes, I know that blogging about this is not helping stem the fervor; the Web is media, and this essay will add to the 48,900,000 hits that Google currently provides for the search term “Britney Spears.” However, I’m deliberately choosing not to link to any of the sensationalist articles or advertisements for any of the above individuals, because I want to limit my contribution to the problem while still addressing the problem itself.

There’s a reason why I don’t watch much TV. If I watch too much, I feel disgusted with myself for passively contributing to the problem. There are many other things — active things — that I can do, like writing, working on web pages, playing music, reading, or visiting museums. In short, creating and learning.

Instead of watching a train wreck, I could be viewing preserved trains at the Colorado Railroad Museum, a link which I’m not ashamed to include.

Instead of contributing to the destruction of a person’s life, I could be creating a fictional character for a short story.

Instead of reading a lament on a television tombstone, I can write a sonnet for my wife.

In the end, I choose to contribute to the problem as little as I can. I would rather be part of the solution, by creating instead of destroying.

2 thoughts on “Regarding Train Wrecks …

  1. I was a little bit stunned by news Ms. Smith’s death, and frankly I felt a little bit sorry for her. I found parts of her twisted life a little bit admirable. Here’s a little girl from Texas who didn’t have a whole lot going for her besides some well-placed fat and a lot of determination. And maybe some luck, but it seems that blade cut both ways. She ends up world-famous and filthy rich. Not too shabby. But then to end her story that way – seems a shame. Perhaps I’m romanticizing her, and I’m okay with that. Like you, I’m refusing to be drawn into the cesspool. The view is much better if you position your chair so to block out the ugly stuff.

  2. I’ll admit to being a bit stunned about Anna Nicole’s death as well, and it was easy for me to get drawn in at first. However, the turning point for me came when Entertainment Tonight flew their anchor correspondent to the Bahamas and started milking the story from every angle. That crossed the line for me and changed the position of my chair, so to speak.

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