Hollywood, a place where dreams are made. A magical land of names in lights, white-tooth smiles and billboard poster faces.
In Hollywood, no mountain is too tall, sky too high or valley too deep.
Surrounded by seas of adoring fans, mountains of money and only the brightest of stars – the world really is in the palm of your hand. High life at its finest in a miscellany of fast cars, private jets and ocean view mansions, is there any wonder why people, old and young, aspire to be a part of this magical land we call Hollywood?
But is it such a wonderful place?
Have the stage curtains been pulled over our eyes?
Behind the Disney smiles and eye sparkles, lies an ugly truth. A truth so far from the fairy-tale ending it barely raises its gruesome head. Hidden behind the multitude of adoring fans, designer wardrobes and dollar signs, lurks a darker shade of fame.
“Hollywood is a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul. I know, because I turned down the first offer often enough and held out for the fifty cents.”-Marilyn Monroe
Being famous should come with great caution, a well-defined list of the true price of fame. An agent doesn’t tell a client that. “Here, sign and be a star.”
Celebrities not only need to cope with hectic work schedules but they also discover they have to deal with unreasonable demands on their time and energy, harassment, or worst still, being verbally or physical attacked. Even their families are attacked for simply being related. And what do we do? How many tabloids do you read, or televised tabloid shows? Guess where a portion of the fuel for their inferno comes from. I can hear you now saying things like “They signed up for it.” or “They get paid enough to handle some pressure.” Okay, let’s put your divorce in the headlines of your local paper and then drag up every possible story–true or false and print it. Let’s plaster the death of your child all over the world with questions about if you were a good parent or not.
“Every actor in his heart believes everything bad that’s printed about him.“-Orson Welles
Most actors want to act for a living because they want to act. Otherwise, they want a normal life like the rest of us. They want to play in the backyard with their kids and enjoy a nice quiet time. They want to watch the grass grow. When not at work they want to take it easy. It’s not happening.
Hollywood: A life in the fast lane
Behind the bright lights lurks darkness. The bright lights that shine on you at your highest moments also expose and judge your every move, stepping one foot out of place could end your entire career. You might assume life is all award ceremonies and VIP passes, but these places are often ones of loneliness, especially for those at the top.
To live, breathe and dream success, there’s little time for normality. Life becomes a crazy circus of paparazzi, admirers, rehearsals, performances and wild parties. Where is the time for life? Is there any wonder we see a growing amount of celebrities reaching out for escapism? For many, life becomes suffocating. When alcohol and drugs are so readily available, it’s easy to get sucked down under, but it’s difficult to battle your way out. Is there any wonder why more and more celebrities are checking into rehab? Did they know this is what they were signing up for to be a star? I doubt their contracts had those clauses in them.
A sea of wealth and fame might seem all-alluring, but throw yourself in too far and the waves will wrap themselves around you and drag you deep down under. Suddenly, you find yourself submerged in a sea of darkness, alone, no one can hear you cry. . . even when you scream.
Sometimes the demands of fame can be too much. We have seen many stars fall. They come crashing down, shocking an entire nation. We walk around sombre, an emptiness in our hearts, wondering why a person with everything could do such a thing? We don’t know, but we will be told every possible disgusting theory.
A media frenzy begins. We watch the news and browse the internet for explanations, motives and reasoning. The newspapers will drag up the same old stories of depression, addiction and mental health. And we watch, search and buy everything we can about it. What does this say about us?
We tell our friends “Have you heard about so and so?” Who tell their friends “Such sad news”. An avalanche has begun and it spirals out of control. Well-wishers take to social media to show their condolences. One week later, bigger news comes along and life moves on.
But life doesn’t move on for the families of these lost lives. Life stands stagnant and tears remain to fall as they try to make sense of such tragedy. I question; do these grieving families really want to see their loved ones name dragged through the mud? Do they really want to watch a blame game unfold? Do they even want to see floods of people claiming to be ‘cut up’ about their loved ones death, when they didn’t personally know them? And if a family member doesn’t respond as we believe they should, what do we do? We post photoshopped images of their dead father on their social media sites. What are we?
Robin Williams was the latest star to commit suicide. His death last Monday shocked worldwide. Despite the fact he had talked, and even joked, about his struggles with alcohol, drugs and depression, his death still came as a surprise. His publicist confirmed he had been “battling severe depression”, a far cry from some of the vibrant characters he played. On top of depression, being in rehab for a year to NOT become addicted to anything again, he also was in the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease. In itself, Parkinson’s in the early stages can be treated, but on top of everything else, perhaps it was just one too many things.
A common misconception is that celebrities are immortal, untouchable, and even unbreakable. In reality, we know this is not so. Celebrities aren’t as immortal as their onscreen characters, in fact, they are just as fragile as us. They experience highs and lows just as we do, but with the added pressure of the media’s critical eye. Celebrities make mistakes, they experience depression and occasionally they buckle under the pressure. Is this cowardly? No, as human beings we all have problems and react differently.
People who commit suicide are often labelled selfish or branded cowards who took the easy way. Underneath these condemnatory statements is not only a misunderstanding but also a lack of empathy. If we just took a moment to overlook the catastrophe of suicide, to look deeper and beyond the false impressions, perhaps we could find compassion and understanding. But perhaps we don’t want to really know the why. If we knew the why maybe we would find out we are closer than we think. Perhaps we are frightened of the truth.
Cowardice or not, suicidal feelings can be both distressing and unbearable to the person experiencing them. Amongst a combination of uselessness, self-hatred and guilt, rational thoughts are dispersed along with solutions to their problems. Trapped in an overwhelming emotional pain, for many, the only way out is fatal. The idea of suicide may give them a sense of being in control again. They might seek comfort in being reunited with loved ones or reincarnation or peace from the pain and torture running through their minds or they could see ‘nothingness’. It’s never the right choice, but they don’t realise that. To live or die, whatever path is chosen, it won’t be bedded with roses, it will be one which will lead to extreme sorrow and grief or to life and survival.
Many of us will say we’ve been there and didn’t kill ourselves. You weren’t that person. You didn’t have the same problems even if you think they looked the same because we are all different. We cannot judge others by what we have done or not done.
Amongst the gossip and speculation, let’s take a moment to remember, celebrities are human beings. They have human-being friends and families, too, who just so happen to be grieving. Naturally, we can’t help but jump into the shoes of the grieving families and question, how could a person so loved feel their only option is suicide? Perhaps we will never know the answers. Do we really want to know? Do we really care?
What was most tragic about Robin Williams’ death, was how his memory was hastily tarred by the media’s devious brush. Whilst we should be celebrating his life, long list of achievements and the fact he made millions laugh, theories and gory details of his death dominate our papers.
Let’s just look at this example, could they be any more ruthless disrespectful?
Rather than discussing the why’s, where’s and the how’s, or worse still, debating whether or not this was a selfish act, shouldn’t we use this sad tragedy to open up about this taboo subject? This isn’t a storyline in some Oscar-winning movie, its reality. We can’t keep slipping it under the carpet. Let’s get it out there and wipe away this stigma attached to suicide and mental health. But no, we will buy these tabloids and continue to feed the industry to give us more of the dirt and nastiness for everything it can find.
Despite the utter shock, we feel as another star falls, a staggering 800,000 to a million people die by suicide every year, making it the 10th leading cause of death worldwide.
Ultimately, time catches up with us all, irrespective of how rich, famous, gifted or fortunate we are. Last week’s events reinforced evermore the fragility of life. It sends a poignant message that everybody hurts. Everybody experiences darker times. Some people are able to fight through these dark times, others lose sight of the light, and sadly, the consequences can be fatal. This isn’t a sign of weakness, but rather, finding peace with themselves. Now, let’s stop this media circus and let them REST IN PEACE.
Hollywood, a place where dreams are made and people are broken – Amanda Lyle.