The entertainment industry is a different planet with its own gravity, oxygen and codes — codes that often fail its stars
Nearly half a century ago, a New York neighborhood was condemned for its heedless indifference to a young woman’s cries as she was being murdered.
Today, Kitty Genovese’s screams might draw people out of their apartments — but only to capture her death on cellphone cameras and post it to YouTube.
Brittany Murphy’s is only the latest name in a march of celebrities to die prematurely and publicly — while the whole world watches but no one helps.
For model Anna Nicole Smith, the end came following years of gluttonous consumption of prescribed sedatives and painkillers.
Michael Jackson’s final curtain fell rather randomly after one of his requests for a powerful anesthetic that is normally only administered in hospitals prior to surgery.
What these three have in common is not merely the lurid transparency of their afflictions and the apparent ease with which their deaths could be predicted.
Even more grotesque is that their weaknesses and weirdness were so highly public — yet, instead of concern, they became the stuff of parody and stand-up monologues.
In death Jackson was eulogized as another Mozart — but right up to the end the living, much derided "Jacko" was treated as the freak of the century.
Smith went a step further by participating in her own degradation through a popular reality show in which she appeared to zone in and out of consciousness while gorging on food.
And enough was known about Murphy’s problems that she even became the butt of a popular drug-addled parody on “Saturday Night Live."
Last November, she was kicked off the Puerto Rican set of “The Caller” and replaced with another actress. On an earlier film, her inability to focus on her character’s lines even forced the producers of “Something Wicked” to rewrite her character in order to compensate for Murphy’s wavering attentiveness.
Yet here she is, dead at 32.
In life, Brittany Murphy may not have been enough of a talent to speak for a generation or even create much of a fan base, but her death is certainly now defining one very dark corner of our culture of spectacle.
The reality TV show boom has created a niche devoted entirely to celebrities who buffoonishly attempt to reach sobriety and, like trained seals fully aware of what’s expected of them, push further and further away from the recovery they need.
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