The Canonization of Celebrity

With the deaths of a number of celebrities over the past couple of weeks -- most notably Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson -- there's been a media feeding frenzy that hasn't been seen since the untimely death of Princess Diana in 1997. Wes Pruden aptly calls it America's Princess Di moment.

Fawcett's death at the age of 60 was sad but expected, as she was fighting a particularly nasty form of cancer. Jackson's death at age 50 caught everyone by surprise because, despite his frail appearance over the past few years, he was gearing up for a new tour, set to kick off just a couple of weeks before his death, and there was no public knowledge of serious health issues.

But what's amazing is how the death of celebrities manages to push everything else off of the front page. The people of Iran, facing imprisonment, injury, and even death as they protest against a repressive regime for democracy and freedom, have been forgotten as we dash to see ghoulish last photos of Michael Jackson being rushed to the hospital, discover who will get custody of his children, and wonder how the estate will be divvied up. Click here to see a photo of the media circus camped out in front of Jackson's home, taken on June 29 by a friend of mine who lives in the area. One would think that perhaps a world leader had died, but no, just the self-proclaimed King of Pop had departed his throne forever. (Yes, he actually had a throne.)

Please don't get me wrong: I am sure that Jackson's family is grieving, as is natural and right, and it's expected that fans will feel the loss of a favorite entertainer. But Jackson's sudden death has seemed to erase all of the strange antics and downright weirdness he engaged in over the past 20 or so years, and his anti-Semitic tendencies have certainly been ignored in much of this rush to turn him into some kind of saint. I'm waiting for a petition to the pope on Jackson's behalf, even though he wasn't Catholic.