Real issues are swept aside as sensationalism lives on

by Richard S. Winer, M.D. | Current Events

The entertainment world and the general public have been reeling over the deaths of three iconic figures in the past week.  It has been rather remarkable to notice the recent press coverage related to the deaths of Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon.  At a time when patient after patient seems to come into my office with a tale of woe related to the current economic climate, the topics that really affect our financial and emotional well-being get put to the side.

Instead of having newscasts open with the lead story about discussions on health care reform, the price of gas for summer driving or protests about the elections in Iran, we are greeted with wall-to-wall coverage on the death of Michael Jackson.  Why is this happening?

A simple answer might be money.  If the story is sensational enough and unusual to boot, that will attract viewers or readers and will, in turn, lead to more sponsors  being willing to part with their advertising dollars.

The answer though is probably far more complex than that.  Certainly, there are plenty of people around the world who enjoyed Michael Jackson the singer and entertainer.  There are those who also found his actions so unusual or even disturbing that they were compelled to follow what he was doing.

Some have expressed the thought that he was a role model and that is a concern. Years ago, Charles Barkley reminded viewers in a Nike ad that he was not a role model for children.  Barkley was a great basketball player during his career with the Philadelphia 76ers and Phoenix Suns. That was the way he wanted to leave things. Parents, family or friends as well as those routinely making a difference in trying to repair the world, even one person at a time, are the real role models.

It is easy to get caught up in the adulation of the stars in the entertainment world, and many of them do considerable good beyond the boundaries of their profession. But they are people just like the rest of us. They too have strengths and weaknesses, a fact quite evident in hearing the outlandish tales of celebrities’ lives.

Maybe we just needed a break from all the mind-numbing activity that comes with a world that needs fixing. Instead of worrying even more about the economy, we have an opportunity to escape temporarily into the world of a governor whose political star has fallen suddenly because of his mystery trip to Argentina – or, for that matter, into the sudden death of a star many of us had seen since his and our own childhood.

There is nothing wrong with appreciating these losses. But soon we will need to get back to the issues that actually shape our own lives. Call it a brief respite, if you will, but there is plenty of work left for all of us to do.

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