Is it too soon? I’m never sure how much time I have to wait before weighing in on whatever celebrity kicked it during the night. Yesterday was Andrew Breitbart. Wednesday, Davy Jones. Before that, of course, was Whitney Houston, a singer nobody spent much time discussing over the last decade except to talk about what a colossal fuck-up she was. Then she dies and suddenly CNN is wall-to-wall Whitney? Piers Morgan, scumbag editor of London phone-hacking tabloids, is asking Chaka Khan if she thinks pressure from the media is to blame? Please. If revenge is a dish best served cold, phony hypocritical piety is a dish best served on a heaping plate of shut the fuck up.
I’m not denying that dead celebrities are compelling. Of course they are. The younger, more beautiful, and more fucked-up the better. We love dead celebrities. They make great copy. They make great water cooler conversation. A dead celebrity is so much more exciting than a live one. Live celebrities do awful things and make bad career decisions and get divorced—all of which is exciting, too, but nothing caps a celebrity’s life like an awesome, “too soon” death.
Dead celebrities fill those endless news cycles better than any humanitarian crisis ever could. Nobody looks better on magazine covers or sells more albums than dead celebrities. Which magazine are you going to pick up at the supermarket checkout: “Massacre in Syria” or “Whitney’s Final Hours”? Exactly. Dead celebrities go great with paper printed with dead presidents. Our entire economy could be fixed tomorrow if only more celebrities would suffer fatal heart attacks at early ages, auto-erotically asphyxiate, or allow their doctors to administer lethal amounts of anesthesia. How much money did Newark, New Jersey receive when the global media descended to cover Whitney’s funeral?
I’m not ashamed to admit that I love a dead celebrity too. I watched Piers Morgan. I read TMZ. I did all of it. I am no more immune to the allure of pop culture tragedy than anybody else. I’m just saying, let’s be honest about our interest, which is prurient. Dead celebrity watching is no different than watching fetish porn; we know it’s wrong but we can’t help ourselves. It just feels too good.
If you really want to respect the dead, treat them the way you did in life. Schlocky piousness is just as bad as tossing a shovelful of dirt on their cold and bloodless corpses. People live their lives in a certain way; when they die, let’s be honest about who they were in their entirety. Let’s remember them as human beings, not as wax sculptures at Madame Tussauds.
When I die, I hope people make off-color jokes about me on Twitter, and I hope some of those jokes (a lot of those jokes) are offensive. Because that’s what I did to people when they were alive. If you’re not comfortable with people saying shitty things about you when you die, then try not to be a despicable human being when you are alive. Like Andrew Breitbart was. Too soon?
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