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My interests include veganism and vegetarianism, health, ethics, politics and culture, media, and the environment. I have three kids; I teach college part-time, study piano and attempt to garden. I knit. I blog on just about anything, but many posts are related to my somewhat pathetic quest to eat better, be more mindful of the environment, and be a more responsible news consumer. Sometimes I write about parenting, but, like so many Mommy bloggers, my kids have recently told me not to. :) Thanks for reading.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Farrah and Michael

So, it's been a little over 24 hours since Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson died. In true American form, that is SO yesterday's news. I'm moving on. Well, not really -- I'm taking time to make fun of their fans, and of Hollywood. After all, it's a toss up as to which is more ridiculous.

Before I get going here, let me be clear that I am truly saddened by their deaths. They were cultural icons. Whatever that means -- and I have to be honest that I'm not entirely sure -- they seemed to be "it". Her hair and his dance moves defined a whole generation, for better or for worse. I think I was the only girl I knew who never attempted the Farrah hair; I had more of a Kate Jackson look, though I secretly wanted to look like Jacklyn Smyth.

Michael's talent was undeniable, and though it's fun to take pot shots at his weirdness and his personal trials and possible immorality, those things do not take away from what he gave the world through his music. In high school, the thing to do was practice moonwalking, and the really cool kids did it well, often in the middle of the dance floor with the rest of us uncoordinated slobs cheering them on. He made white socks and tight jeans cool, and I was far from alone in LOVING his music videos. I was so mad my parents wouldn't get cable. Thank God the boyfriend's family had cable!

Farrah's story, at least to me, is quite different. I wouldn't actually begin a memorial to Farrah by describing her unusual talent. Not to be mean, but that's not really what Farrah was famous for, whereas it is, at least in part, what made Michael famous. Farrah was NOT the best actress that ever lived. Yet, she did many things worthy of admiration. For one, she left a TV show when it was successful because it was the right thing for her to do, not because it was what was going to benefit a network or gladden fans. I'm thinking that probably took some courage (helped along, of course, by a mountain of accumulated money and a marriage to Lee Majors). She raised a son and stayed in a relationship for nearly 30 years. Unmarried or not, that's an achievement. She ventured into sculpture and artwork, some of which (from what I saw on the Baba Wawa special) looked kinda good. She had the bravery to pose nude TWICE, once in her fifties. She knew she was beautiful, but she also didn't want to let that be the only thing she was known for. If you ever saw her in the TV movie, "The Burning Bed," you know that she was in fact a whole lot smarter and capable than the role that originally made her famous.

A friend who used to live in Carlsbad (where Farrah lived) showed me where Farrah worshipped -- a trendy, undeniably Hollywoodish, kinda-out-there, Hinduish place. That tells me she was attempting some kind of relationship with God, and I think that's admirable. (For you doubters out there, Farrah had been worshipping there for years, not just since the diagnosis.) From what my friend had been told -- years before the diagnosis -- Farrah was a faithful, regular worshipper. And she took the time to have coffee with my friend, simply because my friend went up to her and said, "I just wanted you to know how much I used to enjoy Charlie's Angels." What a nice person (both my friend and Farrah!).

Yesterday, the news portrayed both Farrah and Michael as flawed (true) and as equally artistically talented (sorry, not true). Hollywood took the opportunity to hold them up as iconic, because really -- how could Hollywood pass up that opportunity when Farrah and Michael had the audacity to die ON THE SAME DAY?! What was missing, in my opinion, was the truth: one was freakishly talented (yet freakish) and the other uncommonly beautiful (yet only commonly talented). I suppose this was done as much to placate fans of both as it was to allow Hollywood the opportunity to weave a story of similarity between the two. I don't see the similarity, obviously. It also gave Hollywood a chance to propagate yet another myth: that in dying, the very famous become like the rest of us.

The famous suffer like the rest of us, true. But I do not believe that in dying Farrah and Michael are suddenly like the rest of us, or like the 10,000 children who starved to death yesterday. They were not, and are not, "like us." We (their fans) and Hollywood made them that way, and we have to live with the difference we created -- for all the negative AND positive reasons that difference spawns.

They have stars on the walk of fame. They died with arguably the best medical care. They had legions of people praying for them, blogging about them, thinking about them. Though their families may have (very understandably) wished to be obscure (yesterday in particular), the reality is that most people never have the opportunity to experience the kind of LOVE from so many people that these people had. It's hard to imagine, frankly, and I suspect hard to understand when it's directed at you. It is truly crazy. But you cannot make the argument that death equalizes everybody. Even in death, Hollywood stays Hollywood. Fame remains. Crazy fans remain crazy.

In the end, it looks as though one of these stars had more talent, but far less success in personal life, than the other. Who would I rather have been? It's not hard to choose. (Hint: it's the one whose death was all but eclipsed yesterday by the death of the other.) RIP Farrah and Michael


  1. We are all touched equally by death as we are all touched equally by life. Yet each human being experiences life and death uniquely. Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett are no different in experiencing the phenomena of life and death and are no different in experiencing the unique manifestations that life and death express. To this extent, they are wholly like us, as we are wholly different from them.

    I would agree, the argument that death equalizes everybody is absurd, since existence and nothingness are presupposed conditions that define what it means to be a human being. It seems we would do much better to heed what Soren Kierkegaard once wrote when considering Michael Jackson's and Farrah Fawcett's deaths: Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forward.

  2. Thank you for writing this... this article should be submitted to the press! US Magazine or TMZ or something! It is so well written and thought out.

  3. Farrah was amazing in the Burning Bed and Michael was an incredible musician. They had very different gifts, beauty for one, and music for the other--but in the final (and I do mean final) analysis, they were both just people.


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