Yesterday, as over 200 fans flocked to gather outside the funeral of Corey Haim to pay their last respects, a 911 call was released to the world’s press and spread like wildfire around the internet.
On that 911 call, a mother frantically called the emergency services and screamed and pleaded down the phone for help while her only son lay dying in her arms. That woman was Judy Haim, Corey’s mother. While her son’s body was laid to rest in his hometown, Toronto, thousands of people sat at home, listening to her grief-stricken, panicked words to the 911 dispatcher over and over.
Am I the only one who sees something wrong with this picture?
When did it become okay to abuse basic human rights and privacy and spread around a personal moment between mother and son for the entertainment of others? And, more to the point, who the hell wants to hear something like that? What pleasure does anyone get in hearing the fearful voice of a mother about to lose their child? It’s a recording of Corey and Judy’s last moments together and the press have spread it around like it’s nothing more than a box of chocolates. Here, take what you need out of it, then spread it on.
This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. In 1993 when River Phoenix died of a drug overdose outside The Viper Room, the panicked and tearful phone call made by his brother, Joaquin, was played over and over for the next couple of months on television and radio. Ten years ago, William Shatner discovered his wife’s body floating face down in their home pool and quickly called 911 for help. This phone call was also repeated several times in media outlets.
I even remember when Brad Renfro died two years ago. The 911 call made by his girlfriend was released and the reaction of hundreds of internet users was sickening – They actually accused Renfro’s girlfriend of not sounding ‘panicked’ enough. They thought she sounded too calm and as though she didn’t really care what happened. Is this what 911 calls are being made public for? So we can judge whether the deceased’s loved ones sound grief-stricken enough?
When did the lives of celebrities become public property?
It’s said often enough, whenever an actor/actress/singer complains about paparazzi and tabloids, that they know what they’re getting into when they choose to do that job. Press attention is inevitable. But when did we decide that there were no limits on how much privacy we can take from one individual? Is that even fair?
When River Phoenix died, a journalist broke into the funeral home, opened his casket, rearranged the body, and took a picture. The National Enquirer published it. Even a week after his death, he was still being hounded by photographers. And no-one was arrested for it.
I begin to question the ethics of an industry that I’m trying to break into. I want to become a reviewer. And I also want the chance to write features. But I could never explore the world of journalism that dives so deep into a person’s life. I mean, that’s what these celebrities are – people. Real humans. They might have messed up lives and a different view of the world but they still have feelings, they still have emotions, and they still have families.
What gives us the right to abuse that? Think of someone you’ve lost that was close to you. Maybe a friend. Maybe a grandparent. A parent. A brother. A sister. A wife. A husband. A fiancé. Now imagine, during that first week of struggling to come to terms with everything that’s just happened, the entire world is judging you. They’re talking about how upset you look (“Meh. Not much. Shows how much you care!”). They’re talking about what you ‘didn’t’ do to save your loved one in time (“Sounded like you weren’t bothered! They died because of you. You heartless bastard!”). They’re talking about things that aren’t even true about your loved one (“I heard … She heard … He said … She said … “). You’re trying to mourn and the whole word is watching you. And it’s because the press won’t leave you alone.
Death is hot. When someone dies, they get some of the best publicity of their careers. And most of it is either bullshit lies (invented so that the deceased is no longer around to defend himself) or disrespect for their privacy. Truth be told it should be the family and friends who decides how much publicity or press attention is given.
Once a 911 call is public property, it doesn’t go away. Joaquin Phoenix’s 911 call still crops up on TV ‘entertainment’ channels and programmes. So does Bill Shatner’s. And I have no doubt that Judy Haim’s will, too. (I mean, it already has gone from internet to ‘celebrity news’ shows.) All I can hope is that one day we’ll forget about this celebrity culture that has brainwashed us and actually realise that these are real people we’re messing with. A death is not entertainment. A heartbroken mother’s sorrow is not entertainment.
Is this an industry I still want to pursue? Maybe not, now. Not until we find the balance between respect and crossing the line.
Once again, I wish Corey Haim’s friends and family my condolences and hope they can lean on each other at this time. I for one will miss seeing his face on the big screen.