British reality TV star Jade Goody, who appeared on the show 'Big Brother' in 2002, is turning her death into reality television. Goody suffers from terminal cervical cancer and is making a show about her impending demise. Recently, she wed an ex-con named Jack Tweed, in a televised ceremony, which included bridesmaids who had shaved their heads (to mimic Goody's hair loss from chemotherapy). Tweed was allowed by officials to stay out past his house arrest curfew, imposed after his 18-month jail sentence for attacking a teenager with a golf club.
Television can do very good things, and it can do very bad things. This is a very bad thing, and Goody is doing no service to herself, her two sons (ages 4 and 5) or the public. Her decision to televise her demise turns what should be private moments between Goody, her children and her "husband" and her Maker (if she believes in God) into entertainment.
It dehumanizes her, deprives her children of the certain knowledge that life and death and family and love are greater than fame, and injures every person who struggles to make sense of our mortality, rather than distorting it with the lens of a camera and rendering it absurd.
If you want to know why some young people have no reluctance to tape beatings and air them on YouTube, take a look at Jade Goody (and the reprehensible producers of her series).
If you want to know why we have an epidemic of character pathology-including extreme narcissism-gripping this nation, take a look at Jade Goody.
If you want to know why real empathy is in short supply, too often replaced by a thin, synthetic veneer of concern for others, no deeper than applause, take a look at Jade Goody.
Turning death into a make-believe circus of photo ops, paydays (Goody reportedly received $2.2 million for the media rights to her wedding) and fake pathos doesn't raise cancer awareness, as Goody claims. It buries it. Cancer is about moments behind closed doors, about private thoughts late in the night, about quiet courage to face suffering, about tears shed over concerns for oneself and one's children that are unspeakable, except to those we love, for real.
Goody has apparently defended her reality series because it will provide money to raise her two children. She could have left them something else: The certain knowledge that they mattered more than fame, that they should never sell their souls to the highest bidder, that being alive on the face of this great planet means coming to terms with death, not denying it or trivializing it by turning it into a taped, partly faked spectacle or last ditch try for fame.
Nope, there's nothing good about this at all.
Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatry correspondent for FOX News Channel and a New York Times bestselling author. His newest book, "Living the Truth: Transform Your Life through the Power of Insight and Honesty" has launched a new self-help movement. Check out Dr. Ablow's website at livingthetruth.com firstname.lastname@example.org
livingthetruth.comor e-mail him at
Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team. Dr. Ablow can be reached at email@example.com.