This is the age of sensationalism. Celebrities are America’s royalty. We want to know every move they make, we want to be them. We enter into reality television shows in search of lavish lifestyle in the public eye; but like them the important stories and issues sit in the background while we waste our time and thoughts on meaningless drivel. The ugly part of this transition is the sensationalizing of these pop stars falling from grace, their lives are made into media spectacle.
Think back to the media coverage on Charlie Sheen. I was in Chicago for St. Patrick’s Day two years ago, and all you could find were t-shirts quoting Sheen’s insanity, and people screaming those quotes all over town. Lindsay Lohan is vilified, yet constantly in the spot light for her drug problem. When Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston passed away, the media took full advantage, and it was the only thing talked about for days, even weeks.
Shows like Celebrity Rehab and Intervention have grown in popularity, making addiction into a sad reality T.V. joke. Whether it’s celebrities or “normal” people, we are entertained by their self-destruction. These shows and stories numb the public to the seriousness of the issues. Americans laugh and gossip about the latest celebrity missteps, while addiction takes the lives of people we know and love. Families are torn apart, and all involved feel helpless.
Of course there are some exceptions. I recently watched an ESPN Films 30 for 30 documentary titled ‘Unguarded,’ the story of Chris Herren, a basketball star, who struggles with opiate addiction. Despite his celebrity, high income, and success on the court, his addiction eventually wins out, leaving him just as hopeless as every other addict. After reaching his bottom, he entered rehab and started attending twelve step meetings. Now sober, he now uses his popularity to spread his message to our military, families, and most importantly our youth.
Here is a preview of ‘Unguarded’ and an interview with Chris Herren.
You can purchase the full ESPN documentary ‘Unguarded’ on iTunes for a small fee.
Several other shows provide a more realistic perspective on addiction and drugs. Shows like ‘Drugs Inc.’ on National Geographic, ‘Curiosity: Your Body on Drugs’ on Discovery and HBO’s show ‘Addiction’ are on this short list. Unfortunately, the reality T.V. phenomenon doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. It’s doubtful, given the popularity of these types of prime time programs, that we will get anything different anytime soon. It would be nice if the news gave us important information, but for the time being, it’s up to us as individuals to educate ourselves.