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It seems like every week there is another death of a paragon of happiness, sending shockwave after shockwave across the world. Whether it is violence against them or self-inflicted, there is obviously something very wrong with the way we both view and treat celebrities.
The recent spate of bad news seemed to be catalyzed by Avicii’s suicide in April. Upon reading a brief synopsis of his meteoric rise to fame, it is painfully apparent at how poor the star was treated. Harassed by management and the extremely powerful labels, the star became terribly ill just as quickly as he rose to the forefront of the music industry. It was evident he needed help, and that his alcoholism was taking a greater and greater toll on him, yet he was valued as nothing but a commodity by the industry.
This theme of dehumanization is a dark specter within the entertainment industry. An often cited example of this is Jimi Hendrix, pushed to death as an overworked horse may be.
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After Avicii, a string of beloved names have followed: Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain taking their own lives, or XXXTentacion and Jimmy Wopo being gunned down within hours of one another.
The ways in which these figures passed may have been different, but they are all symptomatic of a larger, deeper problem not only within the industry, but society itself. These larger-than-life individuals, heroes to some and villains to others, are placed in a category that separates them from the human condition. They are expected to be perfect, producing endless quality content, having a flawless appearance, and behaving in a saintly manner 24/7.
The amount of pressure faced to perform in all of these areas is extremely unhealthy, both physically and mentally, and the last two months have been quite the wake up call to a problem that has been present for decades.
Not only do we bring them down by unrealistic expectations, but another, even darker cycle of violence has plagued artists, specifically those in hip hop. XXXTentacion and Jimmy Wopo were gunned down as a result of hate, just as rap legends Tupac and Biggie were. Would these artists have been targeted like this had they not risen out of their childhood environments? I would argue they wouldn’t have, once again a symptom of their dehumanization.
As a society, it is time to face ourselves and our expectations of these stars, who at the end of the day, when they put their phone down and close their eyes to fall asleep, have the same fears, anxieties, desires, and needs that every one of us has. Perhaps if we can adjust our own perspective of them, we can begin to pressure the entertainment industry itself into being a humane institution and start to eradicate this plague of physical and emotional violence facing these personalities.
I am currently a Student at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, and will graduate in 2019 with a major in Psychology clustered in Neuroscience, and a minor in Business Administration. I intend on moving into the music industry after college and eventually getting into talent management, A&R, or event management. No matter what I choose to do, I strive to be a part of pushing industry innovation further than ever before.