Sunday, February 12, 2012

Whitney Houston: Celebrity Death and the Scapegoat Culture

  Whitney Houston died yesterday. Forensic expert Michael Baden is already making the rounds to raise the question of whether or not there is a doctor somewhere to blame for this "tragedy." You can hear the lynch mob starting to assemble and see them start to gather their farm utensils and pull on the handkerchiefs to hide their faces. Someone must be to blame for Whitney Houston's death. The conviction of Michael Jackson's doctor Conrad Murray to the maximum sentence of four years in prison for leading to the  pop star's death has set the precedent. And the ongoing heartbreak over the death of Elvis Presley, and the feeling someone should have been held responsible, whether it was Colonel Tom Parker or George Constantine "Dr Nick" Nichopoulos, has been bubbling over for decades now.

     The death of Micheal Jackson gave the public what they wanted in the death of Elvis... a scapegoat. There's that dirty word again. Scapegoat. In Hebrew tradition the scapegoat was an actual goat sent out into the desert to die for the sins of others. In this case I would say the scapegoat is not blameless, but the target of a great deal of what Freud would have called displacement. An easy target for feeling that can't be reconciled by addressing them towards the actual culprit or source of the suffering. It might be useful to know that in Hebrew tradition, that scapegoat, Azazel, often comes back to do a little haunting of its own.

     Someone must be to blame for Whitney Houston's death. And someone is...

     Whitney Houston.

     Someone was responsible for the death of Michael Jackson...

     Michael Jackson.

     Approximately 20,000 Americans die from illegal drug use every year. Another 75,000 are believed to die from prescription drugs every year. That's almost 100,000 Americans who die every year from drugs. And that excludes alcohol, tobacco, and probably the biggest killer of all... fatty foods. Who's to blame? 

     Are illegal drug dealers to blame? Big pharma? Monsanto? Oscar Mayer? Should we saddle up the linch mob, and after we get whoever is singled out to pay for Whitney Houston's bad decisions, go after them? No? Because the other 250-500 people who died today aren't famous?

     Oh well, let it play out. Maybe in the court of public opinion it will be decided whatever led to Whitney Houston's death was largely the result of bad habits and bad decisions. I tend to doubt it. I think the lynch mob will ride again. Precedent has been set. And there are a lot of nervous doctors in Los Angeles tonight. I guess it will always be easier to solve the small problems in life than do the hard work of contemplating what justice really is in a world full of people all too willing to do their justice with their faces covered. 

But all that claptrap is kind of irrelevant. I summoned you here to read these poems I have written on the topic of lynch mobs and celebrity deaths.  

Whiskey Spills, Bad Lovers, and Celebrity 
Deaths Come In Threes

"You know Johnny fucked
Farrah Fawcett when she
Was still on Charlies' Angels,"
Says celebrity sidekick Ed
McMahon from behind a Scotch
Too cheap for an ex Marine
To a second rate bartender/actor
Paying too little attention.
"And he always said that Michael
Jackson was a fucking child molester,"
Says McMahon, pretending not to notice
The celebrtity tabloid show
Flickering in the corner.
As late night sidekick Ed McMahon's
Shaky hand spills a third trickle
Of rot gut onto the bar he knows
Back home his trophy wife
And the three Pekignese are already
Staring at the couch like
They're seeing a ghost.
Ex Marine Ed McMahon beckons
The two-bit bartender closer
And offers: "I can only tell you
One thing kid: Whiskey spills,
Bad lovers, and celebrity
Deaths come in threes."

    Lynch Mob 

   Just once I want 
   To saddle up and 
   Ride out with 
   The mob, 
   My blank face 
   Hidden behind a  
   Red kerchief, 
   Spitting my hate 
   Through broken teeth 
   I want to fire 
   My six shooter guilt free 
   Into crowds of women 
   And children. 

   Just be there in 
   My overalls with the 
   Other villagers 
   I want to hold 
   My torch to the 
   Monster’s face 
   And ask him 
   If he really thought 
   He’d get away with it. 



Pin It


  1. drugs and fame seem to be accepted in the entertainment industry. How come they dont screen people for drug like they do for a regular job. too many icons have been lost and nobody speaks out.....Its so so sad. what a loss. Rest in Peace.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Julie. I think there's a romantic, but disfunctional notion that's always been applied to artists and entertainers that it's almost expected that they at least make an attempt to abuse sex, drugs, and rock and roll. I think it's a wrong-headed idea and needs to be done away with.


Blogger Wordpress Gadgets