Open Mic: The Downward Spiral

I'm going to refrain from making jokes about the irony of Amy Winehouse's hit single, "Rehab," because I think the obviousness speaks for itself. What's not so obvious, at least to celebrities, is the creeping obsession with death; the mentality of, as Neil Young once put it, "Better to burn out/Than to fade away" that has subtly nested in the wonderment we have with pop icons over the last few decades.

Canonized legends like Jim Morrison and Marilyn Monroe - faces forever frozen in wild, blazon eyes and the smooth ivory skin of youth - have set some kind of twisted, bastardized precedent for today's artists trying to make it big.

It seems that paparazzi puppy chow like Winehouse and English rocker Pete Doherty are making their bad-to-the-bone, sweat-stained images so obviously public that they are whoring out an identity in an attempt to find some sort of immortal martyrdom in their self-destructive actions. Especially now, in the wake of the tragic, untimely death of actor Heath Ledger, is it extremely important for the media to refrain from glorifying this type of lifestyle.

By no means am I insinuating that Ledger's death was intentional (the police report says it was an accidental overdose, and that is good enough for me). In turning Ledger, never an Oscar or Golden Globe winner and only recently (Brokeback Mountain, 2005) nabbing a lead role in a critically-acclaimed film, into an iconic manifestation that transcends his cinematic achievements, the media (and the fans - we aren't without blame, either) are basically ensuring eternal life through premature death.

I don't think anyone believes that Winehouse and Doherty, along with other rehab regulars like grunge rocker Scott Weiland, are trying to consciously kill themselves with their habitual drug use, but it has become too culturally accepted that this kind of behavior just "comes with the territory." It stopped being fun after the constant pain of death that came from artists like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, and it isn't fun now.

David Crosby, one of the spokespeople of the '60s and a notorious drug user in the past, perhaps put it best when recollecting what his movement stood for.

"Our generation was right about civil rights; we were right about Vietnam; we were right about poverty," he said. "Unfortunately, we were wrong about drugs."