Celebrities Don’t Belong To You, Nor Do They Owe You

The interwebs is drowning in posts about Whitney Houston; both her life and her death. Like many, I’m still kind of thrown off by it. I have to be honest though. With Michael Jackson, I saw it coming. Because of his problematic past and his goal of a comeback tour, I expected that within a year or 2 of that tour, he’d leave us with 1 last hurrah. It’s sad that his last hurrah was captured in 111 minutes of rehearsal footage.

I do recall however the ostentatious memorial that took place at the Staples Center. Tickets were raffled off via a specially designed site, major artists headlined with touching renditions of MJ’s songs, and his family was in attendance. Minus the recollections of those who knew MJ as a friend, it felt like a jam session. The reality snuffed us all in the mouth at the very end though. I’ll never forget that moment that Paris took the microphone and spoke about her father. Her father! That moment in time it was recognized that Michael was not just the King of Pop. He was not just a record breaking artist. He was not just a humanitarian and philanthropist to many nations of voiceless people. He was a man who had people that depended on him. He had people that saw him as just Michael.

I’m sad for Whitney’s family. But more than anything, I’m sad for 18 year old Bobbi Kristina. The thing about celebrity offspring is that they don’t ask for this spotlight. In many cases, they try their best to just be normal kids and do regular things that kids their age do. As we saw from the Being Bobby Brown reality show, this family had a lot going on. In the Oprah interview Whitney did to promote her I Look To You album, she specifically said that Bobbi Kristina witnessed much of hers and Bobby’s volatility. Barely legal, Bobbi Kristina has had her own minor run ins with the law. So it boggled my mind that, instead of paying homage to Whitney’s legacy and respecting the family’s wishes, there’s so much vitriol around the family not wanting a public memorial.

For much of this week, media outlets in New Jersey have been covering the hush-hush, invitation only funeral service taking place on Saturday. Thousands of people have left notes of memoriam, balloons and signs at the church in Newark. Many camped outside in front of the Whigham Funeral Home on Monday night, awaiting the posthumous arrival of Houston. Quite a few idiots long time fans have actually paid airfare to congregate with the locals. Amidst of all the hoop-la, residents of Newark have vehemently expressed their discontent with the family’s decision against a public memorial a la MJ.

Here’s the thing – celebrity deaths have become such a public and gratuitous occassion. Notwithstanding the wealth, the star power, and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a part of something historic, fans forget that these people have families. Reports have said she actually spoke with her mother, Cissy Houston, hours before her death and things seemed normal. So despite our hurt and shock, nobody who actually knew here could have seen this coming. Whitney was a mother. She was a daughter. She was a sister. She was a friend. She held all these roles that, if she’d truly lost her ability to be “the voice”, would still require her daily attention.

I think a private service is fitting, considering Houston was a relatively private person. She wasn’t easily or readily accessible like some celebrities. After seeing herself on the Being Bobby Brown fiasco, she refused to do another season and it was consequently cancelled. She gave fans a piece of her through music and I’m satisfied with that. I feel like the way the public had turned on her in latter years, her family doesn’t owe us anything. They don’t owe us that type of intimate access to “properly” mourn her. They’re doing enough by giving fans an opportunity to watch the livestream of the service.

At the end of the day, the Houston family shared Whitney with us for over 20 years. The least we could do is not judge them for wanting her back as they remember her.

* I hope that LiveStream site will be able to hold the amount of traffic for the service. Because unlike MJ’s, people won’t have the option to watch it on TV


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