26 June 2009

Deaths of a Sidekick, an Angel, and a Superstar

What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death?

--Psalms 89:48

The past few days have been filled with expanded media coverage of notable people whose deaths have rocked the entertainment industry. Each situation was tragic.

Ed McMahon
Ed McMahon was once the late night television audience's best friend while he was Johnny Carson's announcer and sidekick for many years. In addition to that, he hosted, emceed, and regularly appeared on different shows, maintaining his welcome presence on television. Sadly, near the end of his life, he suffered from mold poisoning, broken bones, and great financial loss.

Farrah Fawcett
Naturally beautiful and famous because of that beauty, Farrah Fawcett lit up television, posters, and magazines. She was even a very talented artist. Her life, however, was cut short due to a rare cancer that seemed to very quickly overcome her despite a reportedly strong will to beat the cancer.

Michael Jackson
Popular music changed in a major way because of Michael Jackson. From boyhood stardom, he built one of the most successful music careers of all time, right up there with Elvis Presley. His later years were filled with controversy, eccentricity, and a out-of-this-world type of lifestyle. His life, too, unexpectedly and suddenly came to an end.

I feel sorry for the families and other direct parties whose lives are now forever changed by that one inescapable fact of life: death. It is not easy to deal with, whether someone dies of old age, or of a terminal cancer, or just out of the blue.

It is very difficult for me, however, to sympathize with the great sadness that seems to reverberate from the large fandom across the country and from around the world due to the passing of these common people who made it to worldwide fame. I found myself watching the extended news coverage; but I increasingly found that some of the people interviewed on the street, over the phone, or via some other blog/tweet/update placed too much expectation--too much of their self-worth--on whom I can safely guess were people they had never met. They acted as if their lives were dependent on the existence of this one actor or musician.

And the problem I attribute this to is idolatry. I guess we are all guilty of hero worship from time to time. When someone in the entertainment industry appears to have some of the same humble beginnings that common people like we have, it builds a kind of reverence to a person that we could have been. So we vicariously celebrate and enjoy the successes that person has and get angry when they do something stupid to hurt their name or diminish their fame, as if they had done it to us personally. They are, after all, representing us: the common people.

The media exacerbates this problem by contributing hours of coverage surrounding the announcement and investigations into the deaths of the celebrities. I find it very disrespectful, also, that they focus cameras on the ground and in the air to catch perhaps the dead body (the body of some grieving person's sibling, child, parent, or spouse) in transport. But, that's another topic for another time.

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

--Exodus 20:3

Do you idolize a common person who happened to make it to stardom? Did you react to the deaths of these talented people (or any like them) more than as if it was a member of your own family? Do you plan a pilgrimage to their home or to build a shrine in their honor?

Then, my friend, I am afraid you have placed too much trust in and invested too much of your devotion to a common person. They may have had an impact on the entertainment industry, but of what lasting value is that? Music today is not the same as it was when Michael Jackson came on the scene; but neither is it the same as when Elvis changed it before him, nor as when some of today's stars have changed it today. The same goes for film and television.

Every human life on Earth is temporary. The fame, fortune, and fan bases of these three stars could do nothing to make their bodies immortal or to stop their souls from going out into eternity. Though I don't tend to go preachy with my blogs, I feel it is necessary in this case:

Only one person has that power over death. Only one person deserves the devotion that so many people had for the three poor souls whose lives have ended.

...I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.

--John 10:17b-18

And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

--John 10:28

And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,

--Revelation 1:5, KJV

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