On last month’s House21 book club podcast I reviewed ‘Loving Amy’ a book writing by Janis Winehouse, Amy Winehouse’s mum.
Mel & I discussed in depth how much the media glamourises broken women, and that discussion is what prompted me to write this blog.
Amy’s talent was unmatched, worldwide infamy told a story of an amazingly talented young woman. What it also did was tell us how broken she was, her music spoke to broken hearts everywhere. It’s darkness resonated with us all through our most turbulent times.
The turmoil Amy had to live through in order to produce these hits though, was something that was hidden, then twisted and portrayed to us all as the classic traits of a broken woman.
In the book, Amy’s mum speaks of how often Amy tried and failed to get clean from drugs, she also talks of how often the starlet refused to get help, on the basis that ‘if she didn’t feel all of her feelings, she wouldn’t be able to produce great music’
There are questions when it comes to the morals of Amy’s parents. However, having read the accounts of her mother, who unfortunately now only has hindsight on her side, it’s quite clear that from a very tender age, thrust into the spotlight Amy was hounded by the media. Her drug abuse glamourised and later used to tear her apart. They camped outside her house, they even snuck into her funeral. They approached her parents asking for them to write heartfelt pleas to their daughter and then twisted their words and made the only people Amy believed to really care about her look as though they didn’t.
Sadly, Amy isn’t the first women to be glamourised and picked apart for her questionable lifestyle choices, and nor is she the last. If anything this media circus and tirade against high profile women continues to intensify with the years.
The glamourising of mental health, has long been a problem, the same media write reports about how important it is to look after your mental health whilst simultaneously tearing people who are mentally ill apart. Like magpies on a squab. Hyenas on a wildebeest.
Women of our generation such as Britney Spears, Meghan Markle, Caroline Flack and Amy herself have all been through highest public scrutiny, sadly we know the consequence of this, in 50% of those women, is death.
But this goes back much further than these women mentioned. There are many, many more that fall into a similar category, Princess Diana, Witney Houston, even as far back as Marylin Monroe. In life the press vilified them and tore them limb from limb, and in death we’ve glamourised them, made them heroines of their own tragedies.
Judy Garland, Anna Nicole-Smith, Janis Joplin. Women who suffered for their art and profession. Women who gave everything to their passion and died because of it.
Women who aren’t dead, but are still having their life choices judged by the world, who aren’t able to hide from the judgement and scrutiny. Kerry Katona, bipolar. Cheryl Cole, anxiety. Demi Lovato, drug addiction.
Mental illness is common. Mental illness isn’t a choice. Addiction is a mental illness. Addiction is a side effect of mental illness. I don’t condone the actions of all of these women whilst under the influence, but being famous doesn’t give anybody a fundamental right to the ins and outs of your private life.
Crimes are to be reported and tried in a court of law, not played out on our screens and concluded by a public jury or an army of online trolls.
We know the side effect of this but still we okay it. Still we devour these stories, because they’re there for us to read.
I hope there comes a time when click bait is no longer in existence. When the media has to pay for its contribution to the downfall of a broken woman. When women in the spotlight are given space and privacy to recover from tragedy, to make amends for their non criminal mistakes and to do so without trial by media.