Public Mourning

In her piece that we read this week, Judith Butler discusses public mourning and which lives are (considered by some) worthy of being mourned publicly. While Butler focuses on terrorists and soldiers in her argument, this discussion brings to mind to the recent death of Whitney Houston.  After her death, I saw a number of posts online (and rants on Facebook) about how we should not be surprised about her death, since she was on drugs for a number of years. (Just to add, I don’t necessarily agree with this stance and don’t want to offend…)  Now I am not saying that Whitney Houston’s death isn’t worthy of public mourning just because she was an addict, but rather I am calling fame and status into the question.  Every year, there are memorials and public services for celebrities and publicly esteemed icons who suffer the same fate as ordinary people – whose lives and deaths go unknown.  Do celebrities deserve to be mourned any more than the average person? Even those with the greatest impact? Because in the end, aren’t we all just “zoe” – bare life?

Going off of that, it seems that celebrities often “get off the hook” for things that would typically regarded as unacceptable.  To mind comes Chris Brown.  After his performances on the Grammy’s, I recall some online sources claiming that he had “redeemed himself” from the abuse scandal a few years ago.  Does being a great performer mean that we can overlook that outburst of domestic abuse?  It outrages me that the public is willing to simply forgive and forget so quickly in the case of celebrities.  Are celebrities a higher form of life – are they “bios” and the rest of us just “zoe”?  I think not.  But apparently the production of popular music and entertainment outweighs breaches of justice.  Now I don’t want to judge Chris Brown too quickly either without proper knowledge of his personal life, but it is just something to think about and consider.

In the end, I think that pop culture has an astronomical impact on whose deaths we mourn and who we view as “bios” and “zoe.”

Mallory Thayer


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