Unfortunately, today, the amazing athlete and owner of the “Say ‘Ow!’” label died. Junior Seau was a stud and now he’s gone.
But that wasn’t the story on the news. The story was his mother. And her genuine emotional response, caught on countless cameras and replayed by countless affiliates. It was exploited by countless anchors and viewed by countless people. Like you and like me, home from work, eating pizza, without an attachment in the world to her or her son. Nobodies. Distant satellites, at best, for a second caught in orbit by the gravity of this woman’s situation.
How dare we?
This is on us. This is our fault. It’s the result of our celebrity obsession and reality fixation, though this isn’t a game show. This isn’t the red carpet. And, above all, this isn’t fair, not to a woman who, like all of us, just yesterday would have gripped her wishing penny and said “Lord, just don’t let me outlive my child.”
And now she has. We used to send those people cards. Before Access Hollywood came on at every dinner table, we’d wear a suit and stop by in-person to deliver flowers. Now we grab a camera. We tear open their chest and broadcast their weeping heart on primetime news like it’s an episode of Entertainment Tonight. Like it’s something to tweet about. Which I did.
Our problem is deep and we’ve lost our boundaries. Our sick celebrity infatuation has left us entitled. We love to know who’s sleeping with whom, and who’s drinking what, where. But with stars and athletes that’s part of the deal. It’s in their contract. When you cash a multi-million dollar check for a 3-month stint on set pretending to love Emily Blunt you’re not selling your art. You’re selling your soul. It’s deep in the fine-print, but everyone in this town knows it’s there. Everyone. This woman is a free-agent. She signed nothing.
Here in LA, you do interviews. Take pictures. Get your face on Us Weekly and be seen at Coffee Bean. Because every time you do you get paid more. You’re building a relationship with your audience and your audience is America. You need them to know about your personal life because if they don’t know then they don’t care. And if they don’t care they don’t see your movie. And if they don’t see your movie then you don’t get paid. So, ipso facto, every (obscene) check you cash is an agreement to open your life up to Americans. After all, we’re best friends.
And so I don’t feel bad when I see a celebrity complaining about their privacy. Because it’s never Emma Thompson making those complaints. It’s the people who pose for pictures outside Chateau Marmont and sell their wedding album to People. And I’ve never seen Ms.Seau’s wedding album.
In America, we’ve come to expect it. We don’t make that connection between payment sent and service received. Every time we buy a movie ticket or click on Perez Hilton we’re buying a little piece of that person’s life until, after 300 million clicks there is none of that individual left. Just a property for us to exploit and enjoy. They’re split, thousands of times over, into stock, and we’re the holders. Entertainers exist for our entertainment. Period.
Seems harmless enough. Just an honest free-market exchange.
And the free-market is the beauty of this country, right? It’s what seperates us from the rest of this world. It’s what makes us better. Because it’s a choice. Nobody gets top billing on a movie without making that decision of how and when to sell themselves. And you’ve got to respect that. I guess.
But more importantly, you’ve got to respect the people who never made that choice. You have to respect the people who never sold their person. Ms. Seau isn’t a celebrity. She never had a Nike contract. She’s just a grieving woman. And she owns it. That grief is hers. We can’t take that. It’s not our right. Who are we?
We are voyeur thieves, kid-napping a woman in her darkest hour and it’s disgusting.
It’s worse than disgusting. It’s sad. In the sincerest form of that word. It’s devoid of promise and potential. A genuinely tragic moment. One that makes me exhale my life and stand a hollow shadow with no form. I am only shame.
Leave her the fuck alone. Please.