In the last few days, my generation has finally joined the great and the good decades before us. We have finally constructed our own entry to the 27 club. Forever 27. It has a lovely ring to it, does it not? Suitably romantic and yet tragically desperate, one would think it is a marketing gimmick that exists for no other reason than to appeal to the dissolute youth of today. You know the ones. The ‘emotional’ ones who not only correctly use the word ennui to describe their day to day feelings but actually mean it.
Amy Winehouse and her death seems to me to be much more than the tragic decline of a talented singer. The fact that the time and date of her death played right into the hands of that well known statistical spike just places the cherry neatly on the cake. She was a young girl that was contorted and moulded by the press and industry to represent something more than the sum of her parts. The intense searing fame she had to endure no doubt was a major contributing factor to her eventual dramatic denouement – but, I put the question to you, how much of a part did you play in her death?
Before you bluster and bite back, with ‘nothing, I never even met her!’ , consider this. How many times did you read a newspaper column that devoted inch upon sordid inch to her decline and fall? Did you ever read a magazine that delivered to its readers the glossy double page spread that paid homage to her desperation? Watch the coverage of her final tumultuous shows? Comment on any of the numerous articles about her lifestyle, loves, finances, holidays, bikinis, tattoos, pub crawls, death ? Think about it. I imagine you did.
The liberties taken with her privacy and life are painful to think about now. Looking back there are things and incidents that could so easily have been avoided. How much would it have pained a journalist to take the decision not to give in to the voyeuristic tendencies of their editors just once? Any of the magazines and columnists could have decided against exploiting this girl to sell their products. Every word and picture printed, every time she opened her door to find flash bulbs in her eyes or tried to get away from the pressures of her life in remote destinations only to find the paparazzi already in residence….another moment that served no reason other than to hurt her.
Addiction and the downward spiral of the celebrity has become something of a spectator sport these days. It is no longer taboo – indeed track marks and bloody insoles are almost badges of honour. They become inspirational to a certain type of person who craves the validation of their lifestyle that this seems to give. In turn this pushed Amy Winehouse to greater and greater heights. Addiction is not romantic. In fairy-tale parlance, it is a curse. Addiction is not inspirational. It is a ruiner. Addiction is a disease – not a game show that people choose to participate in. Addiction is not a way to sell papers or make money. Yet that is what it is rapidly becoming.
We all killed Amy Winehouse. We may not have realised it at the time, but we did. Hopefully the lessons learnt from this tragic and unnecessary loss of life are huge and game changing. Perhaps now photographers will think twice about chasing a celebrity addict into the Priory to get that last money shot, or encouraging them to leap to higher levels of depravity all for the sake of good copy.
However I really doubt this is the case.