Celebrity and the Big C – Part 2

The beginning of this post can be found here: Celebrity and the Big C – Part 1.

Sorry for dwelling on this topic even longer, but I just remembered something as I wrote “It hurts to lose a loved one, regardless of if they’re famous or Joe Schmoe down the street.” THIS WAS (and still is) MY F***ING PROBLEM WITH JADE GOODY. To people outside of Britain, she was a woman who basically got famous for being famously unedumacated on Big Brother and making an arse of herself on Celebrity Big Brother a few years later by making bullying racist comments about a fellow housemate and thereby causing a huge scandal.

Foot-in-mouth disease. You has had it.

When she got diagnosed with cancer, it was made into a reality TV show and gathered a media circus around the whole thing. While I’m genuinely sad for the sake of her young children that they did actually have the misfortune of losing their mother to cancer, the whole show around her passing I found deeply offensive. Partially because the people around her should have let her focus on getting well, not her getting on telly and I felt as if she was being exploited – then again, she might have been doing that to herself. Partially because while it was such a media frenzy around her being ill, there was very little talk about the disease itself and raising awareness of it and asking people to donate to related charities. In fact, parts of the British public started collecting money for her kids! What?! It’s a nice sentiment, I’ll give you that, but really, she wasn’t paid more than enough for being on TV and wouldn’t the kids inherit that anyway? It’s as if people thought they’d be destitute, which was hardly the case. She probably got paid for a TV show what you or I get paid in a year. Sense or proportion, well-meaning yet rather foolish British public?

People said that it was raising awareness of the disease. My proverbial bottom it was! I heard nothing about how to spot signs early, that you should make sure to have your smear test done regularly and to please give money to fund cancer research and support organisations like McMillan Cancer Support or anything like that. Compare that with Sir Terry Pratchett, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and what did he do? Make a reality TV show out of his doctors appointments and hospital visits? No, he donated money to help fund Alzheimer’s research and made sure to raise the public’s awareness of the disease by giving interviews about the disease and what causes it and what can be done about it, not “oh look at me, I’m ill”! I really admire him for that. (I also admire him for being a great writer who would never go on Celebrity Big Brother, but that’s beside the point.)

Because you’re worth it!

Jade Goody’s illness could have helped a lot of people (as outlined above), but instead, it was turned into a cash cow. Disgusting! And the final thing that really got to me, and actually had me bursting into angry tears in the car when discussed once, was that people are diagnosed with cancer every day. Some of those people will live, some of them will die, and everyone around them will be affected by it. Do they get lots of media attention? No, the general public couldn’t give a stuff about them, simply because they’re not “that person off of the telly”.

So why should people care (or maybe rather pretend to care) so much about her when so many others are going through the exactly the same thing, only their circumstances might be a lot worse. They might not have public collections for their kids, and they might not get juicy cheques for newspaper interviews, simply because they struggle on alone, and have to look after their young children and try to maintain some sense of stability in a world of chaos and uncertainty. These perfectly normal people are bloody heroes! People like my mum, who had to get by trying to care for three kids under the age of ten while her husband was in and out of hospital for two years, and doing so on a meager teacher’s salary. And yet, while those years were hell for her and I’m surprised she managed to hold everything together, there are people who were and are even worse off still. And ask that Joe Schmoe down the street, and he’d just shrug and talk about the weather, because these ordinary people have not made tabloid headlines.

Kinda like this one.

It might sound awfully selfish, because at the time, my comment was along the lines of “and where were the newspapers when my grandmothers died?!” Of course I didn’t mean it quite like that. I wouldn’t have wanted the media outside the hospital and having it on the six o’clock news, but the whole idea of her being mourned by a nation while the rest of us have to just deal with our grief by ourselves. When I say she was mourned by a nation, I mean a nation that had of course, before her illness, made no qualms over how ridiculous and stupid they all thought she was – which is another topic on its own. Take Michael Jackson for example. He was called a weirdo and a pervert for the most part of two decades or so and the butt of every joke. Suddenly he dies, and as if by magic, he’s the greatest gift to music that’s ever lived. You’ve not given a stuff about his music since the 1980s! Suddenly he’s God? What the hell?

Anyway. So I guess there are two sides to the coin of celebs and cancer. They get it like everyone else, and they have families that mourn their passing just like everyone else. I’m just glad the vast majority of them are dignified about it (see previous post). Had Jade Goody pulled through, I would have been happy for her, and then I would have gone back to not caring a stuff about her latest televised antics. I would have just been a lot happier if she had actually used her celeb status to do something useful while she was busy doing those interviews. I might be completely wrong. Maybe she did actually talk about the disease and what it does and how to spot it and so on, and urging people to remember that she’s not the only one trying to fight cancer out there, and please give generously to charities trying to help win the battle, or at least make it a bit more bearable. From what I gathered from just reading the odd online article and seeing the trailers on TV (you didn’t think I actually watched the show itself, did you?) and hearing news on the radio, however, she didn’t, and it felt more like a PR opportunity. Sad, really sad. Also sad that her passing was greeted with a feeling of relief, at least on my part. Not that her suffering had finally ended. No, because finally, we wouldn’t have to bloody hear about it anymore.

Googling for pictures (there are tons of her when she’s ill,
which is just really tasteless), I was reminded that while she
wasn’t the brightest candle in the chandelier, she was
actually quite pretty from time to time. I really like this photo.
It has a certain warmth to it and I think she was a positive
person. Just also a very attention-seeking and annoying one.

Maybe that’s the thing. If you’re a celebrity and you’re ill, don’t milk it for publicity. Use it to raise awareness and to help people, including yourself. Or simply state the fact that you’re ill, and then focus on getting better. We’ll admire you for your struggles, regardless if you’re successful at beating cancer or not, because while we’re not family or friends, we do care, because we’re funny like that.

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