It seems the law of threes struck again lately. There is this, urban legend perhaps, that states when a celebrity or well-known individual dies, two more will die within X days. Sometimes it's 3 days. Sometimes is 7. Sometimes it's 21, although that one is a bit of a stretch. 21 days is a large window of time for three famous people known to you to die.
This week we had the law of threes slap us hard. It wasn't a law of three deaths within a week. It was the law of threes of three deaths within three days. Coincidence? Yeah. But it sure makes for a good fireside story to claim the connection between them all.
Ed McMahon June 23, 2009, no formal cause of death but tons of health issues
Farrah Fawcett June 25, 2009, ~9:30 a.m., victim of cancer
Michael Jackson June 25, 2009, ~2:30 p.m., cause of death as of yet unreleased
People have been wondering about how much air time each of these deaths have received. I will admit just as quickly as anyone else that anyone who said they were receiving equal treatment was off their rocker. It is obvious that the news media has dug its claws into the Michael Jackson story and is dragging it along for ratings. But why? Well, there are a few reasons for this.
These reasons are sad and offensive, but they are true reasons, and cannot be denied. I do not agree with the reasoning behind who's death gets what time, but this is just the way it is, in my eyes. Perhaps if these reasons are discussed, we can change the monster that drives our news media -- exploitation of tragedy.
First of all, people are complaining that with the advent of the death of Michael Jackson, no one is hearing about the death of Farrah Fawcett. I have one thing to ask. Remember Ed McMahon? I didn't think so.
Ed McMahon was famous in his own right, but he was viewed as old by the media powers-that-be. To them, he was well past his prime. He was death-warmed-over and just waiting to be buried. Old people die. That's a fact of life. Who's going to care?
Media thoughts: Old guy died. He was famous. The old people who watch cable news will remember him. People who know the name of Johnny Carson will remember him. People who did the Publisher's Clearinghouse sweepstakes will remember him. Oh, and people who watch those weird commercials on T.V. during the day that cater to old people (e.g. advertising medicines, advertising investment in gold, advertising purchase of Franklin Mint knick-knacks and non-circulating Liberian memorial coinage, etc.) will remember him. It's two generations maybe back from the popular in-the-know youth hipsters of today, but let's do a story anyway.
Farrah Fawcett died of cancer. We've been hearing about Farrah Fawcett's battle with cancer for quite some time. We knew she was going to die. She also was famous. Many of us still remember her for her looks, charm, and roles she played. But she was sick. We knew she was only going to be around for a while. It was tragic, but that's the way of cancer.
Media thoughts: How tragic. A beautiful actress has passed after her battle with cancer. Everyone remembers Charlie's Angels. Everyone remembers her curly hair and broad, white-toothed smile. She was a sex icon: beautiful, strong, ....and somewhat ditzy. Middle-America, personified. Viewers love tragedy and suffering. They like to see things that make them feel better about themselves. Let's help them with that "thank god it wasn't me or someone I love" feeling and do a story. Lots of people remember this lady. Aging people, yes, perhaps the parents of our hipster youth, but they still spend money on our commercialized products. Be sure to get a hybrid vehicle ad somewhere in there. We need to sell more of those. And don't forget Oil of Olay.
Michael Jackson died of unknown causes, hours after Farrah Fawcett. I think, of the three, he is not only the undisputed king of the popularity/fame contest, but also his death was the least expected. People around the world know his name. Ask kids in Germany or Japan if they know Ed McMahon. Try Farrah Fawcett too.
Media thoughts: OH MY F^%&ING GOD! This is a tragedy goldmine! That geezer McMahon was just plain old. Old people die. Farrah who? Oh yeah, the lady with cancer. Sad, but cancer victims die. Michael Jackson? Who would have thought? He was sick earlier in the year but...... OH MY F^%&ING GOD! Everyone, EVERYONE wants to hear about Michael Jackson.
The reasons are clear. Of the three who died he was the shocker. He was no doubt the most famous. He was also the one to climb into the clouds, only to fall so very far. His life, and his death, were a tragedy that surpassed any inkling of a story you could write about Ed McWho and Farrah. GET THIS ON THE TUBE/(S)! People will eat this up. People who love him and say "Oh no! He's dead!" will tune in. People who hate him and say "Bout damn time that pedophile went to hell" will tune in. People surprised by the shock of the death will tune in just because of the WTF principle.
Again, I don't believe that any of the reasons behind why which death receives however much time is ethical or moral. This is the truth as I see it. The media wants the biggest story, the biggest tragedy, akin to some earthquake or tsunami that kills thousands upon thousands of.. some other... maybe brown... people far far away. Therefore, McMahon is brushed under the carpet, Fawcett is taken off the stove, and we are force-fed a Michael Jackson sandwich.
People realize, and the news media doesn't, that all three of these individuals were loved; they all had friends, family, and fans. They all touched lives in their own communities equally and as passionately as each other. They will ALL be missed.
And get Ed McMahon back on T.V. I want to see Barbara Walters' report on him.