The tragic loss of former Love Island host Caroline Flack has caused an online frenzy on how the media can destroy a person. At the age of 40 years old and the peak of her successful career Caroline took her life, and a key factor can be the immense online hate and tabloid press that attempted to sell stories from someone else’s pain. The Sun are a prime example, as before the announcement of her passing The Sun had written an article about a brutal Valentines Day card mocking the presenter on their website. The card featured a drawing of Flack with a message saying “I’ll fucking lamp you” linking to her ongoing legal proceedings. The media somehow turned a moment which truly reflected a mental health episode into a £3.50 card for your loved ones.
This glamorisation of mental health in the media is common, but only gets criticised once that person is no longer alive. This is most notable in Britney Spears’ episode in 2007, which doesn’t even need an explanation as it has become a pop culture phenomenon. Britney Spears’ manic episode has become a quote for people: “if Britney can get through 2007, you can get through today”. Though Spears is still alive, if she had passed after this event, we would not be making light of such a horrific event. This form of dehumanisation only proves society doesn’t truly understand the extent of mental health until it is too late.
The event that happened to Britney is a common occurrence for millions of people suffering with a similar condition, and the reaction from the public only shows the lack of public knowledge about mental health. Fame, success and money do not stop the demon of mental health from haunting anyone, but why do we tend to joke about episodes such as Britney’s? Whenever celebrities such as Robin Williams or Love Island stars Caroline Flack, Mike Thalassitis and Sophie Gradon pass, society starts sending messages of love and respect for the individuals, despite these individuals being victimised when they were alive.
For Mike Thalassitis, who was commonly known as ‘muggy Mike’ until the day his tragic death was announced, people only seemed to care when it was too late. Mike is a tragic story of a young man gone too soon, but it is almost as if the public see celebrities as completely different beings, as sub-humans who do not express the same emotions as the rest of us do. The media presents celebrity culture as something to envy and admire, but for anyone, even those without mental health problems, it is a lot to handle. With the constant media scrutiny, and even envy, this attention takes away any sort of humanity we can feel towards them. With reality dating shows becoming a hit in the modern media, we tend to criticise individuals without knowing them. We are all victim to this behaviour but continuously decide to participate in it because they are people on the telly and, therefore, we do not see them as equivalent to us. It’s almost as though we take the view that they deserve to feel terrible because they are aiming for success.
The treatment of women’s bodies is another bad aspect of celebrity culture, particularly in magazines such as The Sun, Okay! and People. These magazines have sections dedicated to scrutinising candid photos of women that will obviously prove unflattering. Much of society has started to transform the way we view sizes in general, but the media still scrutinises those with an average sized body. This adds more to the stigma, not just for celebrities but also for the public. This was a huge topic in Taylor Swift’s new documentary, ‘Miss Americana’, in which she analyses the way the media presented her body. The media would make comments such as “is Taylor pregnant?” when Swift was a healthy size. Swift mentions the issues this caused for her, as this led to her beginning to suffer with an eating disorder, causing her to drop from a size 6 to a size double 0. This story rings true for many female stars such as Demi Lovato, and both Jesy Nelson and Jade Thirlwall from Little Mix, only proving the negative impact the media has on celebrity mental health.
The purpose of this article is to express the importance of mental health even for those who are celebrities. Since the establishment of celebrity culture, we are quick to scrutinise, but not to empathise. Before we say mean things or make fun of events such as Britney’s meltdown or Marina Joyce’s (the YouTuber everyone thought was kidnapped by ISIS) on-screen erratic behaviour, we should consider that these individuals are human. The media needs to accept mental health issues happen for celebrities too, and once they do, maybe as a society we can begin to help those suffering. Stories like Caroline’s are becoming so common in the media and maybe as a society we need to change to make sure we can try our hardest to prevent these situations from happening.
Its time to be kinder and look after each other.