You Want To Buy My Tears?

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What do you do when your brother murdered his pregnant wife? Or your husband hired a hitman to kill you? Or when you were molested as a child by a one-eyed uncle who wore a dress?

You write a book.

In USA this is one thing that has never ceased to amaze me. The commodization of grief. I understand why the press does it— it makes good dramatic TV. What I don’t understand is why people who have been hurt are so eager to make public spectacles of their grief in the US media.

For some it’s all about making a quick buck. That’s fine. Scott Peterson murdered his wife and is now gonna hang for it. Bad luck for him. Not so for his half-sister. She barely knew him before this incident but then the golden goose alighted at her home: Mr Peterson came to stay with after bumping off his wife.

Bingo ! Out came the ghost-written book “Thirty three reasons why my brother, Scott Peterson, is guilty” which immediately became a national bestseller.

I don’t grudge her for making money out of the misery of a murderer. What I found rather distasteful was the false grief she tomtommed in Oprah for her brother and his wife—- while and all the time cleverly promoting her book. And there prompting her along was the person who brought this misery-mongering into the media domain———Oprah.

Not to be outdone, Amber Fry, Scott Peterson’s mistress for whom the murder was done also came out with her own book……………

And now with the Terri Schiavo making headlines I keep on wondering who are the people who are gonna write books? It can’t be Terri Schiavo because when all this will be over and done she will be dead.

Ok in case you are asking who Terri Schiavo is—-she is a woman in a Florida hospital who has been in a permanent vegetative state for 15 years. Now her husband, who claims that Ms Schiavo told her she wants to die, wants her feeding tube withdrawn so that she may die. Ms Schiavo’s parents want to save her. Right now the husband is winning and Ms Schiavo is in the 7th day of a starvation to death.

I see on TV Terri Schiavo’s husband. A person who has been accused by multiple persons of physcially abusing his wife, who has had affairs and kids while his wife lay in hospital, shedding tears and saying that he wants Terri to die because he loves her so much and he cant bear to see her pain. And by the way he is the only person to whom Terri said she wants to die (my wife says this often to me incidentally) and this entire thing of withdrawing the feeding tube rests on the testimony of this man who stands to gain from her death.

He has already gained when he won 300,000 dollars as a malpractice award for being deprived of his wife’s company. This money he gainfully used for dalliances and kids. Now it is crystal clear he wants to get rid of his wife and the State is letting him do so in a case that to me makes no sense. But that’s not the point

The point is that when asked by a TV reporter how he felt after having been made a villain of by the predominantly negative media coverage he has been getting, the man said that he is dying a thousand deaths inside for being crucified for the love he feels for his wife (the first wife that is—he now has a fiance) and that now the time is not right to say what exactly he feels but he shall definitely make his point known.

I smell a big book deal here.

In the same vein when Terri’s brother, who has been campaigning manfully to get her tube back on, was asked about his pain, he replied his first priority is to get to see Teri live but once that is done he will sit down, collect his thoughts and express his feelings. Or in other words…

Write a book !

These I understand. Everyone wants to make money when the opportunity comes. And grief sells. Bigtime.

What totally confounded me was an item a TV channel ran after 9/11. One of the unfortunate people who had been trapped inside the Twin Towers sent a voice message (which his family later got) on their answering machine in which he basically says goodbye to them.

I was intensely moved by the story——–but I also wondered why did the family give the TV channel these tapes? Werent the last words of a father and a husband something private meant for his wife and daughter ONLY? Why were his wife and daughter on TV allowing themselves to be subject to the questions of an intrusive reporter who kept on asking them “How they felt knowing that Mr so-and-so would never come back?” I understand the reporter was looking to increase the channel’s TRPs by playing on the grief of this bereavement but why was the family letting their genuine grief be made a public spectacle of ?

Sharing relieves grief. Accepted. But does it really help to do it in this very public, voyeuristic fashion?

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10 thoughts on “You Want To Buy My Tears?

  1. I think the key motivating force for all these books is money, and the chance to be talked about, to become a kind of celebrity. Never mind which kind or how tawdry, “there is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is NOT being talked about…”

  2. i like the phrase “commoditisation of grief”
    But u know …where there’s a demand, there’ll be a supply.

    Its demented, but we still go and listen to the “private” message from the 9/11 father to his family….perhaps even shed a tear or two.

  3. more than money, it is the status – that comes from 2 minutes of fame. we watch becoz somewhere deep inside we are glad we are not the one. it is “they” in the epicentre of grief.

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  5. “But does it really help to do it in this very public, voyeuristic fashion?”

    You know how to find the answer to that one, don’t you? Write the book.

  6. Hi…was going through ur blog on high recommendation of a friend…and trust me of the few posts I have read, I totally agree with this…
    Am deeply amazed how the lure of money short sells grief… Is that two minutes of fame, or dollars, more than the hurt of seeing your loved one die?

  7. Grief should never be bottled up.

    Speaking about it helps diffuse the intense pain.

    Bemoaning publicly greatly assists in the healing process.

    Public narration coupled with a few hundred thousand dollars, well, that makes grief postively enjoyable !!

    The public has had a fascination for vicarious overpowering grief, as it has for gore, sex and violence, from time immemorial. The furious pain of Shiva after Sati’s death is no different.

    Grief sells. And if it is not harmful, why not sell it?

  8. Remember the Kandahar hijack? A newly-wed couple, the Katyals, was in the plane and the young husband was tragically killed. When the passengers came back home, the young widow to Delhi, my reporter colleague went to meet her. Her father-in-law politely declined an interview then. Perfectly understandable.

    What blew us was that he asked the reporter to come back later.

  9. Pingback: Press Coverage of 26/11—Some Thoughts at Random Thoughts of a Demented Mind

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