Houston, I have a problem

In the first of what will hopefully be a regular feature, Stephen Irvine tells us why he has a problem with the funerary hoopla for Whitney Houston. It is nothing personal, mind …

Coverage of Whitney Houston’s funeral has been more than a little troubling today, with the BBC’s online “News” particularly guilty. Underneath stories about a potential Cold War with Iran and a mental-looking bloke who probably knifed a vicar and is still at large, there’s an update on the late singer’s funeral. Not just that, there’s live video footage of the sorry spectacle. A bit more digging around on the subject on the Beeb and we find this:

“Kevin Costner, who starred opposite Houston in The Bodyguard, has been paying tribute to what he called the “sweet miracle” of her life.”

That’s very moving. Especially as we’re talking about someone who has recorded duets with the likes of Mariah Carey and Enrique Iglesias. And was then found dead in a hotel room that made Mark Renton’s bedsit look like The Ritz. I’d hate to see someone who’d “made a few mistakes” in your eyes then Kev ….

Now, far be it from me to mock a dead person who has sold 170 million albums (despite a career that ended up like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1MTL-0q1Mg), but I fail to see the miracle really. Just someone who had a decentish voice, fucked up, and ended up shuffling about in a broken dress with a seemingly frozen face, making strange noises and a complete mockery of her legacy along the way.

No. My point is rather to highlight that while funeral-cam enjoys prominence, it takes extensive scrolling down the News homepage to find headlines such as ‘Blast at Pakistan town kills 26’, a nothing event in comparison to the outpouring of grief in New Jersey. Where are the celebrity endorsements and mourning throngs for the innocent lives lost in Parachinar? Well, why should we, Kevin Costner or anyone else care about 26 more nameless bodies added to an uncountable pile in a place none of us have ever heard of, let alone been to, when there’s such easy rent-a-sentiment opportunities to be had when a ‘troubled star’ dies?

Whilst there’s no end of celeb kudos to be earned from dabbing an eye while addressing the grieving masses at the funeral of a former star, if one of these lot were to point out that the service marking her self-destruction paled into insignificance next to the brutal murder of yet more innocent people in a region that has seen a heart-breaking amount of bloodshed already, it would spell instant career suicide and ostracism from the cosy A-list world.

Still not convinced? Here’s a question for you. Which of these news items do you remember receiving the most coverage in March 2009?

  1. March 7th – IRA dissidents kill two British soldiers at barracks in Northern Ireland; shoot dead police officer two days later.
  2. March 11th – A youth shoots dead 15 people and himself in a school massacre at Winnenden, near Stuttgart in Germany.
  3. March 22nd – Former Big Brother contestant Jade Goody loses her battle with cancer.
  4. March 26th – UN officials announce as many as 750 people died in southern Sudan during March as a result of clashes over cattle rustling.
  5. March 27th – A burst dam in the Indonesian capital Jakarta kills more than 100 people, many missing.

The only thing more distressing than this kind of skewed valuing of human life is a viewing of the video to ‘If I Told You That’, a duet between Whitney and George Michael that the tragic victims of the Parachinar bombings are unlikely to have ever seen or heard. Small mercies and all that.

I had to do sit through it again though, so you can too. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EjfbyCpAxA&ob=av2e
That’s certainly enough to get me feeling like crying…