How Far is Too Far???

Well, The National Enquirer have snared the Holy Grail of Whitney Houston photos – her very last…lying in her casket! And of course it made the front cover of the latest issue. Not surprisingly, it’s caused a storm of controversy.

The photo was taken at her “private viewing,” so it was either taken by a friend, family member…or funeral home associate. To think that someone may have been invited to the private viewing because they were a trusted member of Houston’s inner circle and then turned around to profit from the moment, well, that’s pretty horrendous.

How far is too far? – THAT’S too far!

As for The National Enquirer publishing the photo. Poor taste has nothing to do with it. It’s business. They’re in the business to sell magazines. It’s photos like Whitney’s last that sells magazines. Why? Because the public want to see those types of photos. They do. She’s not the first celebrity lying in his/her casket that we’ll see on the front cover…and she won’t be the last.

I can guarantee you that most people who scream bloody murder over the casket photo being published have still picked up the magazine to look at the photo with their own eyes, maybe even bought a copy. Yeah, it’s shocking. But so is the fact that Whitney Houston is dead and buried…the photo isn’t the problem, it’s the reality of it.

And, remember these shocking NE covers…

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “How Far is Too Far???

  1. Betty

    Hello Michelle,
    It is the people who buy the trash rags that keep the Enquirer in business. For the life of me I don’t understand why people would pay hard earn money to see a dead person. It was reported yesterday that all jewels were removed and returned to the family. Also, all funeral palor employees have been ruled out and that the picture taker was a family member or friend. Hope they enjoy their thirty pieces of silver.

  2. PGreen

    Death is an unpleasant reality of life. Since moving to America I’ve learned the open casket is part of the mourning process. In England we have no such tradition. The body is viewed personally at the funeral home if you wish but there is no large room where all the relatives gather together to look at the body over the course of a few days. I personally dislike the open coffin tradition having attended a funeral while here.
    So the American obsession with viewing the dead body is naturally transferred to magazine coverage. Going back to Valentino we have seen bodies of celebrities in their open casket. Is it shocking? Of course it is. But death is shocking. There are fanatics who always deny death and choose to believe Michael Jackson or Elvis are still alive. But these photos show the truth of death. Show it’s utter finality.
    Is it wrong to publish them without the family’s permission? Yes. But years in the future these photos serve as interesting documents of the death of famous celebrities. John Lennon and Elvis were two of the most important singers-musicians of the 20th century. In the past we had death masks. Now we have photographs.
    There is a published death photo of Marilyn Monroe that is shocking. It isn’t a cosmetically enhanced corpse for public display in an open casket but an autopsy photo. To anyone thinking an early death has a glamor to it – and there are people who think this is true – this MM photo will wake you up. So I think these photos have their place.
    But if a relative profited from Houston’s photo without permission of the family it is wrong. If the family grant permission there is nothing wrong with viewing death. I personally find it depressing and prefer to remember the person when they were alive.

    • “So the American obsession with viewing the dead body is naturally transferred to magazine coverage.” Not an obsession, a tradition. British royalty used to be displayed when dead so as many eyewitnesses as possible could testify that the person was indeed deceased. So it’s not as if Americans thought up something unprecedented. I have never enjoyed viewing the body, but having been brought up in that tradition there is something disquieting and unfinished about having the dead person simply disappear from life.

  3. Moderator

    Fact is the majority of the public want to read trash about people, Betty. That’s why tabloids exist. That’s why books such as “Mommie Dearest” become best sellers. They feed the public’s desire to see celebrities at their worst. Sadly, it makes most “normal people” feel better. When you have a family member or friend take a photo FOR the tabloid, that says it all.

  4. Moderator

    I will post the Marilyn Monroe photo here, Paul. Good point. The autopsy photo is far worse than any casket photo.

    Like you, I don’t like the open casket tradition either. I think it’s important for family to privately say a goodbye and at least see that their loved one is IN the casket! But, for the funeral, a closed casket is more appropriate.

    I’ve been to funerals where there’s an open casket and people attending, not directly connected to the deceased (so they’re not THAT emotionally devastated about the death) are up by the casket, making comments like, “Oh, she/he looks good”. You feel like saying, “Good?! They’re DEAD! And, where the hell have YOU been for the last couple of decades?!”

    The open casket brings the ghoul out in people, which is why the step up to a “celebrity open casket” will sell thousands upon thousands of magazines.

  5. PGreen

    Yes the distant relatives syndrome comes with such “heartfelt” emotions. I blame the Irish for all the open casket tradition. My mother was Irish so it’s okay to criticize them. LOL The Irish “wake” is even worse with everyone getting drunk and laughing while the body is in the living room for everyone to see. I guess if you genuinely believe in an afterlife it is a time for celebration.

  6. Erika

    Open Caskets & Open Casket Photos were big business in the U.S. in the mid 20th century. Our local museum has a whole display of “Casket Photos” from that time period. As Paul has said in his post before photos it was Death Masks. To me it’s a part of a morbid fascination & a cultural need that will never go away.

    Honestly I have mixed feelings about this photo being released. For 20+ yrs basically EVERY little aspect of her life was shown & told to the fans who kept buying concert tickets, albums, films, and everything else. Than all of a sudden it’s “Family Time” & we will not be having a public tribute (The Grammy’s don’t count)& the 3+Hr TV service doesn’t either) for her fans to be able to have any measure of closure to this.

    I am not at all shocked or upset at the tabloid for publishing this picture nor can I blame them. I am not sure that I find to be as disrespectful as the family & media is making this out to be. The photo that upset me & I found more disrespectful was the one E.T. snapped of the body bag in the back of the ambulance before it left the hotel parking lot.

    I guess I wasn’t surprised by this & was wondering what tabloid was going to get it first.. A very sad commentary about today’s society all in all.

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