Amy Winehouse

Let’s try a little thought experiment. I need you to take three ideas on board for this to work:

Firstly, I have died.

Secondly, there is life after death and the dead can watch the living (although, just to keep it calm, let’s say they go off and hang out at the beach while we have sex and stuff).

Finally, that one of my daughters is phenomenally talented and has landed a recording contract and released a couple of great albums, one of which has been really successful.

(Actually, post-finally, I am actually grouping myself with all of you when it comes to the point I’m making here.)

Anyway, my daughter, let’s call her Amy (which, in fact, is similar to one of my daughters’ names) has just released this second album, which is doing very well. I’m watching all this – I’m dead, remember – from heaven. I’m pleased for Amy and I’m also really pleased with you all for buying her album and going along to her concerts and cheering and buying tour merchandise. (I’m also watching Amy to make sure she shares her good fortune with her siblings. But that’s not really relevant.)

So, just to recap, I’m dead but watching, Amy’s doing very well and you are all supporting her. Brill.

Now our thought experiment darkens: it transpires that Amy has a drink and drug problem. Not just a drinking more than she should and occasionally dabbling problem but A Proper Problem. I can’t help from where I am (heaven, I would hope) but she has lots of fans and people at her record company looking out for her not to mention the members of her family who are still alive, so, despite my impotent position, I’m relieved that the issue is out in the open and someone will help.

Actually, though, it’s not quite panning out like that. Things seem to be getting worse for Amy now. It’s breaking my heart to see the situations she’s getting into but, much as I’ve always hated the gutter press, they are following her and taking photos of her dreadful state and splashing it all across their front pages, so at least all the good people – the people who buy her records and who love her and who don’t work for the tabloids – know she’s in trouble, so she’s not suffering in secret, all the drinking and the drugs and the self-harm.

Still, reassuring though that is, I’m still worrying because no one seems to be grasping hold of the situation, getting hold of her.

Now she’s played a concert where she can barely dance, let alone sing. I’m watching her, my beautiful girl, and something is dreadfully, dreadfully wrong. The film of her performance is on YouTube and seems to be watched by everyone. Now she’s in all the press. It seems that there isn’t anybody who doesn’t know that my girl is in trouble.

And I’m here, behind this impermeable screen that let’s me see all and hear all but do fuck all, wanting to help and wishing somebody would.

EVERYBODY knows she’s in trouble.

Why is nobody helping?

Why did nobody help?

About fennerpearson

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17 Responses to Amy Winehouse

  1. I don’t know. But sometimes if you try and help someone who is REALLY in trouble, you just get taken down with them. And, some parents aren’t as good at their jobs as you. That’s when Amy probably needed the most help, when she was a child. I don’t think it is ever too late to help someone, but it gets much much harder once they are an adult.

    • I don’t disagree (and thank you for your confidence in my parenting skills). But sometimes, more than sometimes, parents do let their children down, not through being bad but because of their own limitations. But then I think we should all muck in. As it happens, I’m not a big fan of Amy’s music but what kills me is that we all watched this happen. I really don’t mean this sarcastically: do you think anyone was surprised? As a society, why are we so voyeuristic?

  2. I don’t know why exactly, but I wrote about it a bit here, referring to the Oslo Massacre…

    http://quietgirlriot.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/in-defence-of-gus-van-sant/

  3. One theory I have is the nuclear family is fucked. And that people would be better off if they shared the burden of parenting, not just nominally eg via schools, but properly in communities.

    You read my version of being a child in a nuclear family, albeit a fictional one…

    • I don’t know that the nuclear family has ever worked. It’s so new. Up until, I think, our generation, perhaps one before, children were brought up in an extended family. In your (wonderful) novel Foucault’s daughter only had her parents. Across history, broadly, I think that is unusual.

      • Elise says:

        I agree with this concept of the family and, although we’ve had many psychodrama trials in our own, I thought it helped that so many were sharing parenting duties and “roles” – not only parents but grandparents and older siblings.

        Tangentially related, but, despite being childless, I had one piece of advice for a coworker who’s going to be a father for the first time: “Don’t shake the baby. If you want to shake the baby, pass it on to someone fresh. That’s how we did it!”

  4. Matthew says:

    What makes you think no one was helping? Perhaps they were, just unsuccessfully.

    http://xkcd.com/383/ seems appropriate.

    • Hi Matthew and thanks for commenting.

      I suppose it depends whether or not (or perhaps the degree to which) one thinks than society should intervene in a case like that. I appreciate what the cartoon is saying but it seems a little defeatist to me.

      If she had done a fraction of that amount of harm to someone else, she would have been stopped from doing it.

      • Matthew says:

        But what can wider society do to intervene? What can you or I do? Precisely nothing. Even a relevant authority (or whatever) or someone close to her, what more *could* they do to forcibly intervene when merely trying and offering help fails? Force her back to rehab? Perhaps, but she’s already done that and it’s clearly not been entirely successful. Get her sectioned and taken to a mental hospital? Seems unlikely and even if possible hardly what anyone would want.
        The cartoon isn’t saying that you shouldn’t try and shouldn’t hope, but just that some problems simply can’t be fixed, I don’t know the details but perhaps this is one of those cases.

      • Hi again, Matthew.
        I do understand the point you’re making here. I’m trying to make three points.
        The first is that we should intervene, in the way we would if the harm was directed at someone else. (Of course, there is an argument that people should be free to harm themselves. I understand that, too, but, on balance, disagree with it.) Just what form that intervention takes is, of course, the $64 question but I would assume that some psychiatric care or counselling would be in the mix.
        Secondly, I’m making a broader point about how ‘celebrities’ are treated differently and how we stand by and treat their lives as soap operas for our entertainment. We let their dramas play out without considering their needs for privacy (during divorces etc) or help.
        And my main point, related to the second one, is about compassion, and our apparent lack of it, not as individuals, necessarily, but as a society.
        Thanks for commenting.
        F

  5. Fenner, this is so heartfelt. You have in fact described what it’s like for the living family, friends, loved ones & associates of a victim of the disease of addiction. That impermeable screen is tortuous. Love Lily x

  6. Elise- what if there is nobody ‘fresh’ to pass the baby to? The amount of single parents now is huge. People are increasingly isolated I think that is partly the point of Fenner’s post.

    • It is about community and how that cannot function in the way it should if we treat some members of it as a soap opera and entertainment, rather than giving them help when they clearly need it. I don’t just mean ‘celebrities’ but they are the clearest example.

    • Elise says:

      We’ve had a ton of single parents in our family: my mother and two of my sisters. That’s *why* there were so many extra people around, helping. And I do recognize how lucky we were.

  7. Elise says:

    Not obviously unpretentious is the best kind of unpretentious.

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