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The Media Eye: Unraveling in the public gaze

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It is a well-established fact in the business of manufacturing information that commercial interests play a major role in the timing and presentation of content. In this cultural moment, our experiences and self-identities are shaped by a media-centric society, where we are both a reflection of the media and a product of it. For women, the media is often a site for the production of a narrative regarding their various roles in society – specifically, contemporary notions of what it means to be young and feminine are very much enforced by the media. Such ideas are typified in particular by the young female celebrity, as she is produced by the media. Amy Winehouse was the quintessential target for the media’s gaze and ridicule. She was popular in the public eye at first for her music but soon after, her persona became far more entertaining than her talent. Regular reports on various pop culture websites kept us updated on the newest Winehouse scandal. Her musical successes were much less interesting than her personal life. Amy Winehouse, and other celebrities such as Britney Spears or Lindsey Lohan that followed a similar though less tragic trajectory are becoming increasingly prolific. What’s worrisome about these public icons is what they represent – young, immensely talented women who unravel under the public gaze they once sought to claim. Media representations of these women do no good to anyone – they encourage voyeurism and a morbid fascination with the downfall of others. They put added stress on already troubled personalities who are struggling under the public gaze to find some sort of balance. And perhaps, most disturbingly, they create a glamorized image of the supremely talented yet very disturbed woman which takes away from the reality of their situation to create a romantic portrayal of a serious problem – addiction. By romanticizing the death of Amy Winehouse, and others before her such as Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix etc, the media produces a mold for dysfunctional brilliance. Regardless of whether being typecast this way is an accurate characterization of their talent, in attaching glamour to them the media perpetuates our fascination with their behavior and their actions. This is discursively reproduced in the narratives of identity formation, particularly when such formation is dictated by the media. We should always lament the loss of life. However, let’s be wary of glamorizing afflictions that lead to such loss, and recognize them as a serious problem in society instead of creating romantic idealizations of a person’s internal struggle.

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