A Long Slow Goodbye
I find goodbyes to be pretty interesting. No matter how famous you are, your entire career can be defined with a bang or with a whimper. Usually the bangs are what we pay attention to. I remember the week when Princess Diana died, I didn’t mourn as much for her like the rest of the world did because I was upset that Mother Teresa’s passing was a five-minute footnote at the end of every news telecast. But hey, battling deteriorating health for over a decade doesn’t grab viewers like a car crash. Just like suicides grab you over someone casually fading into the sunset. Heck, right now I’m listening to Sparklehorse because Mark Linkous’s suicide dropped a ton of bricks on me. Linkous, who never wanted media attention, will probably get more of it in his passing than he had while releasing any of his brilliant records.
Of course, goodbyes aren’t always a result of a death. Plenty of celebrities have seen their image tarnished to the point of nonexistence. Tiger Woods went from being a sports icon to an entertainment rag doll with his recent sexcapades. Michael Jackson was actually liberated by his death after having his image bruised. Sometimes celebrities don’t even say goodbye to us but we say goodbye to them, like Eddie Vedder. While a few grunge legends were immortalized by their suicides, Vedder of Pearl Jam continued to be productive musically while giving up fame. But who do you remember, Kurt Cobain or Vedder? Yeah, you can debate the importance of their bands, but the word suicide unfortunately is often tossed pretty closely to the word Cobain and has become a pretty big part of his legacy.
Public reaction to controversial declines or sudden departures is just as interesting as the details of the actual events. In death, Jackson had people praising him for his unforgettable music accomplishments while others were too use to his battered image to even give him any credit at all. Suicides and controversy generally usher in reaction from people who otherwise wouldn’t notice a person’s existence. It all comes back to the idea that tragedy sells, and people like when celebrities fall off their high horses onto a bed of nails. The fall is more memorable than getting off with two feet under you.
But under it all, goodbyes are pretty sad, regardless of how they happen. Even when they happen in declines, under the condescending grins is pity. Failure limits the unlimited potential that people have. Even when people are generally successful, things coming to an end mean there isn’t anything left. No more albums, movies, shows, nothing. Americans desperately want more of everything, and when they can’t get it, they’re sad not only for selfish reasons, but because they have connections with people that provide them those things.
Goodbyes in entertainment can be pretty delicate. When an athlete announces that he’s in his final season, it’s treated like an awkward victory lap rather than just business. When Conan O’ Brien was getting the boot from NBC, his ratings soared. The sad part is that had he had those ratings all along, maybe NBC would’ve kept him around rather than making such a mess out of the situation. It’s only when things are gone that not only the public realizes what they had, but the entertainers realize what they did, and how it was a part of them. Maybe things aren’t as glaring as in abrupt tragedy, but it’s still something both sides have to deal with. All that’s left to do is to reminisce.
With that, I’m going to be giving up this comfy little space I’ve held for the past few years. Thank you to the people who have let me write and read my writing. If all of this has offered you a little perspective, then that’s pretty cool. Now I’ve got some reminiscing to catch up on.