prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Whitney Houston’s Teachable Moments

Posted by prof e on February 15, 2012

Whitney Houston taught us a lot about life. When a pop star lives, and dies, in the media spotlight teachable moments are part of the package. But not all of those moments have a happy ending. The last, and some would argue most lasting, lesson from Whitney’s life may be that battling addiction is a struggle that too often ends tragically for everyone involved.

Whitney had it all: a gift of a voice that only comes around once or twice in a lifetime, beauty, fame, and fortune. Whitney taught us that moving from the church choir to the concert hall takes just a few short steps if you’ve got real talent. She taught us that life is to be celebrated and that music can lift our spirits like nothing else. And she taught us to be careful about who we choose as friends and lovers.

Sadly, Whitney joins a long line of musical performers who lost the battle with drug and/or alcohol. Every generation and every musical style can point to artists who sacrificed their own lives in the pursuit of their musical passion. See my earlier post, Popular Music’s Sad Legacy, for other recent examples of musicians who met a similar fate.

For some the struggle to rise from obscurity to stardom is too much to bear. Climbing Mt. Everest may be a suitable metaphor. While many aspire to reach the top, the summit has room for only a  few superstars at a time. Those who slip and fall off the trail are quickly forgotten and even those who reach the summit are not guaranteed a safe return to base camp. The air is thin, and the lack of oxygen can impair one’s judgement at those critical moments when the trail gets steep and storms roll in.

The mass media are known for creating, and destroying, careers and legacies. Even after a career has peaked, the after-market of reality TV shows are there to drain whatever life remains. Whitney’s family and friends probably wish they could “undo” the hours of videotape footage that was recorded in the making of Being Bobby Brown, a reality TV series that aired on Bravo in 2005.

No doubt, Whitney Houston’s music will live on long after her death. But it will always be remembered as music that ended abruptly before the final verse and chorus were sung.


23 Responses to “Whitney Houston’s Teachable Moments”

  1. Sasha Klepitskaya said

    This of course is another tragic story of a beautiful and talented person being chewed up and thrown away by the music industry. It seems that these early deaths are occurring more and more and I feel like we will never see an end to it. The media is what these people strive to be the topic of, but, while someone is hazed by the fame and fortune, its hard to realize that this is the same thing that can eventually end someones life. The type of personality that is attracted tot his total dominance and wealth is the same type of personality that is more addictive. With all these factors, its almost expected for some turn oil to occur and for this person to lose control of themselves eventually. The spotlight and the life of celebrities is considerably similar to NASCAR races, I think. A large number of people watch the NASCAR races to watch the car crashes that are bound to happen when vehicles are flying at 150 miles an hour. People watch these celebrities with never ending funds destroy themselves; the celebrities are the NASCAR car crashes. Its an awful shame to see that the pressures of wanting to be the best destroy such precious people with such unique talents. The media created this idea, and the media is killing these celebrities. The consumer are also to blame, because we feed into this madness and fuel the tabloids by purchasing the magazines. Like in the video that we watched during class on Tuesday February 2012 and Matt Damon stated, “The paparazzi does like me because i have a boring story; happily married with kids.” Its sad to realize that this statement is completely true. We never hear about Matt Damon in the magazines. The tabliods and the media and even the consumers will always craze the wild, the tragic, and the unheard of. Everything is is not good enough. The music and film industry is proving to be sometimes fatal.

  2. Sara Chavez said

    I do not think that it is the music industry, the media or the fame that corrupts a person into doing drugs or becoming an alcoholic; it is a personal choice. I do believe it is easier accessible, because of the power of money and high profiled drugs used in the industry. However, at some point in Whitney’s career she was offered the drugs and alcohol and it was her own personal choice to accept them. There are many celebrities that are clean because they choose to be. Everyone at some point is put on the spot, pressured into doing something, but it is up to the person to make the right choice. You can’t blame the person or thing that introduced it. Whitney was beautiful, talented and her career started in a good place; the church. She got caught up in the wrong crowd and made bad decisions. Whitney could have easily had a successful career for a much longer time, but because SHE made the decision to get into drugs, she cut that short for herself. It’s a tragic loss, but a very real situation. You must make the right decisions for yourself, because no matter how talented or beautiful you are, you may not end up as successful as planned. Whitney is a perfect example of that, and although it is tragic that she died because of her drug and alcohol abuse, it should be looked at as a learning experience for others.

  3. Desarey B said

    Throughout Whitney’s career you can admit that she did make some pretty questionable notions, but in this industry when they don’t care if you fail or succeed, all decisions at the end of the day are left to the individual. Whitney will always be a legend, you may have not been one of her biggest fan, but you know who she is, what is has done in her career as a professional. Whitney learned to change and adapt with the decades she learned to reach her younger audience by switching up her music style and still making hit after hit. Michael is another, he went from being white to black, yet when everyone knew that he was going to be preforming at an awards show, we would all tune in to see what he had to offer us this year. In society we look down on these individuals because they are always in the lime light so we can pretty much see what their doing at all times, that has got to be a horrible life to live. Fighting for something you love to do, maybe it is driving celebrities to do the unquestionable, yet we stilll admire them.

  4. Deann Pantoya said

    The death of Whitney Houston on February 11, 2012 was a huge shock to everyone, especially people in the music industry. It seems like only yesterday that people were getting over the shock of Michael Jackson’s death. The death of Whitney was a huge lose for everyone. Whitney had everything that anyone could ever want. A beautiful voice, fame, fortune, looks, and a loving daughter.Who knew that one day some simple little girl singing in her church choir, would some day become a very famous artists. Throughout her career, Whitney had many high and low points. Sadly though some of today’s artists can’t handle the use of drugs and/or alcohol and Whitney was one of them. Whitney battled drugs and alcohol all through her career, but sadly she lost the battle. Even though Whitney Houston may have pasted on, her music and fame will always live on.

  5. Bekah Hathaway said

    The death of any idol or icon in the spotlight is tragic and dissected from every angle. I do think that media can be very strong handed in what life is like for celebrities, especially someone who as looked at as Whitney Huston. Her story made her famous and her voice kept that alive. The media, however, made sure that everything else was kept in the light just as much. The influence that the media has on the lives of stars could be described as the devil’s advocate; they will turn and flip a story in any way they can to make, and to make the idols of the industry look back. Some stars handle the pressure very well and others do not. Some stars are able to hold onto some privacy, which keeps them from losing who they are in the mix of all the rumors and public stories, and reality TV shows. Whitney Huston however may have turned in the direction that many famous people do, and established an addiction to drugs and alcohol. Sadly her name will be added to a list of famous idols that also departed their lives in the same way, but just like many of them Whitney Huston will be first remembered for her voice and her influence in the music industry, then secondly by her tragic and shameful death. The influence of the media could very well have led to her harmful addiction, and will no doubt continue to talk about her, her career, and her death, but as time goes by the negativity of the latter will be left behind, and the positive will take its position once again in the spotlight.

  6. Brandyn Moore said

    This to me is a very tragic outcome of someone that has real talent but then again she did the drugs all on her own and she could have stopped at anytime. Im not at all saying that it would have been easy but its always a good thing to try. It kills me that people today are giving Whitney Houston recognition and appreciation now because while she was alive all it was, was bashing and ridiculing her for what she got into after being married to bobby brown. In my eyes this woman was a angel first and foremost, a wonderful actor, and a positive role model to most. she was a great mother to her children and her voice was definitely heaven sent. she was an angel regardless of what everyone said about her. Her talent was through the roof but of course people want a story so they decided to pursue the drugs rather than pursuing the talent. I remember the day that she died they played Whitney Houston videos from sunup to sundown but when she was alive no one had anything nice to say about her. It went from the media ridiculing her to her being the “funniest” topic in comedian history. All I’m saying is if people love Whitney so much they should have showed it while she was living rather than giving her credit when she is six feet under.

  7. Jennifer Hackett said

    I think, as a society, when something tragic happens like Whitney’s death people begin to place the blame on the media. Personally I don’t believe that the media is to blame for the death of celebrities who have a drug/alcohol problem. It’s sad to say but lots of people have an addiction problem and no one puts that on them but themselves. There have been two recent teenagers that have died from a drug overdose and they weren’t famous. I do think that the media can get to people but it was their choice to have their name heard and their choice to continue on with fame. No one is forced to be famous, it is done by choice and it isn’t right for the blame to be put on the media for a death like that. I don’t even think they have an easier access to the drugs because they are not hard to come by in this society, if someone really wanted them they would find a way. Everyone has their own demons to fight and no one knows what people truly go through in their lives. So Whitney, like many others, probably turned to drugs to deal with her problems and media shouldn’t be the blame for that. She was a great person, inspired many people, and will always be known for her great aspirations on life.

  8. Marki Cook said

    Whitney Huston is an amazing artist who had no doubt touched the lives of many. Being such a wonderful artist she was a direct target for media attention. It was no secret to the public that as Whitney’s career grew so did her addiction to drugs. It is a sad and tragic thing that Whitney did in fact die from a drug related problem when she had been such an inspiration to so many. When a person decides to pursue a life that they know may lead to fortune and fame it should be clear to them that media will be, and is a major element in their lives. It’s not a secret that media exaggerates events and actions. So is it the media’s fault that word got out about a drug addiction, is it the media’s fault that Whitney did drugs? NO! Of course it’s not the media’s fault. No one and no thing can force you into drinking alcohol and or using drugs. That is solely a personal choice that is based off of morals and beliefs. The media may take a situation or an action and elaborate on the truth but, it was the celebrity who gave them the shoes to run in. If you take a step back and look at different celebrities and the publicity they receive you see artists like Taylor Swift. Taylor stays away from drugs and alcohol she does the best she can to be a good person and in return the media has no amino to blow a small incident out of proportion. It’s possible to have good publicity. You are in control of yourself and if you don’t give the media something to talk about they won’t talk. The media is not to blame for Whitney Huston’s death nor are they to blame for her drug use.

  9. Caitlin Norton said

    The death of any icon in a major industry can come to a shock to anyone. But to say that it is the mass media that are not only creating but also destroying the lives of such legacies is wrong. Choosing to abuse drugs and alcohol is a personal choice made by the abuser. For Whitney Houston, it was probably easier for her to obtain whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted it. Most people saw what she was doing, yet no one seemed to try and help. This is where the media gets blamed. They show her in every light yet do nothing to help her. But should that be their job? No, because Houston made this decision for herself not the media. Everyone eventually gets pressured into doing something, but it is totally up to the person to make the right choice. Unfortunately Whitney Houston did not. She was a very talented person who ended in an extremely tragic way. Hopefully her story can be an example that will teach more people how even when you are at the top, bad choices can end in very bad ways and be a great learning experience.

  10. Lindsey Marmolejo said

    The story of Whitney Houston’s life is a both a Cinderella story about an amazing talent that captivated a nation with the singing of a National Anthem and a tragedy that another talented artist fell victim to drug and /or alcohol addiction. The media has always pushed the envelope and tried to make top headlines out of stars tragedies and hardships, simply to “get ahead” and have the top selling issue or TV show, but at the end of the day they are just another human being like everyone else, another human being with a problem who is desperate for help. Whitney Houston’s voice will live forever through her music and her story will never be forgotten.

  11. Ravyn Tanner said

    I think that Whitney Houston was an amazing woman. She had done things, people always dream of doing. Everyone has flaws and everyone falls into temptation, not just celebrities. It’s very sad to think about what happened, and how everyone involved feels. She has an 18 year old daughter that now has to live the rest of her live without a mother, and I would have to guess that bobby brown isn’t the best father given his past. Whitney Houston has had an amazing career, but sadly it had to be cut short. I think that the media needs to respect the family and Whitney and not push it when it comes it the headlines and things they say. Seeing as this just happened not to long ago, I think they need to let everything settle and everyone get a grasp on what happened. If this was anyone else, (that wasn’t famous) and they died from the abuse of drugs and or alcohol it would be just someone else who died from it. Whitney needs to be remembered for all the wonder things she did, not how she died.

  12. Bou Amaya said

    The death of Whitney Houston was indeed a tragic one. Many would say it was self imposed although it was not suicide. The role that the media plays in her death definitely speaks to the wide audience effected by her death. Though her family and close friends would like to only remember the good things of her life, and have others remember that as well, they will always be reminded of her mistakes due to the influence the mass media has on society. Though she is a legend, her cause of death will also never be forgotten. It is very sad that media has such a huge influence in this way. Many people die due to drug or alcohol related instances but those in the limelight will always be remembered for it.

  13. kginter5 said

    Whitney Houston is one of the all time greatest musicians to ever live and its terrible that her life has to be remembered for her abuse of drugs. Yes doing drugs is a personal choice but a person of that stature with that money is at a much greater risk to encounter them. It does not help that she was married to Bobby Brown who was quite possibly the worst influence for her that she could have had. This is a very important teaching moment especially the young artists coming up, its crucial that they stay away from drugs that could be a detriment to their lives as it was to hers.

  14. Aubree Jo Miller said

    I think that media affects us all, even those who are in the spotlight. Whitney has taught us a lot, including how to sing and entertain, but she has also taught us the importance of staying away from illegal drugs and alcohol. A lot of entertainers fight this battle, and I do believe that the media is a part of that. They tell us how great it is to be a star and it doesnt always show us the negative parts. It also advertises a life of parties and drinking, and that is bad for anyone. A lot of artists get caught up in this lifestyle and once they are done and tired of just drinking they also sometimes get caught up in drugs becuase it seems like the next step. Whitney unfortunately was one of the stars and she battled the abuse for many years. It was hard to see her go through it for all that time and it was hard to see her lose the battle to it.
    If anything the death of artists like Whitney and Michael Jackson should teach us how impprtant it is to stay healthy in every way, and to stear clear of the drugs that can take over, ruin, and end your life.

  15. John Geonetta said

    While yes, it is always sad to hear about someone’s life ending, especially prematurely because of an addiction, I had no connection to her. The death of Whitney Houston didn’t really affect me in any way. I wasn’t a fan of her music or movies and never watched the television series featuring her. I have had musicians and actors that I liked die, and was similarly unaffected by their deaths. The media for some reason, right after someone’s death, tends to only focus on the positive things from a persons life then eventually coming back around to the negatives, as was the case with Michael Jackson. People area afraid to talk badly about someone right after they die. Eventually they begin to talk about the tragedies that happened in their lives and judge them again.

  16. Emily Nicolopoulos said

    Whitney Houston is one of the all time greatest musicians to ever live so it was very tragic that she died so young and so early. It is extremely sad that everyone know will remember her life as her abuse to drugs. Of course doing drugs is everyone’s personal choice but when you have a person, a celebrity with so much to lose and so much at stake it’s truly heart wrenching to see someone’s life change so dramatically into something I know they probably never wanted. Her husband Bobby Brown was not a very good help or influence on her but now we just have to remember her life as an amazing person and singer and appalled her for all she has done.

  17. Leon Sheeley said

    Yes it is sad to hear of the passing of a music icon and diva. I do believe that Whitney had her good and bad and i feel that her bad needed to stay private. It is awesome that after her passing they look at the positive but when she was alive when the bad got worse the media was really in her face and i feel that is a bigger tragedy as her passing. I would have loved to see it be brought up never, it was her life and it did not need to be shown to the world. Same thing happened when Michael died they had positive and negative, not right to be judged at all.

  18. Troy Fields said

    There is no question that Whitney Houston was one of the best voices of all time and it is truly sad to see another legend in music go especially the way she did. Unfortunately this is the same way many famous people have passed away in the years which brings the question of what went wrong. Maybe the answer to that was the type of people she associated with such as the infamous Bobby Brown who is known for his bad boy persona and drug use over the years. It is still somwhat crazy to me because I had just saw her on TV a few days before she passed away and she looked fine. Even with her flaws I feel that people should still look at her in a positive light because she was definatley an iconic singer that helped shaped music to what it is today.

  19. Shelby Moore said

    If some of us didn’t know exactly what Whitney sang or what she sounded like, many of her songs would be recognized whether you know them by heart or heard them but were stored in your subconscious. Whichever it is she was absolutely amazing and talented individual. Sitting in class really made me realize that deceased famous artists have two major climaxes in their moment in the spotlight. If you were good, you had fans when you first made it big and then again once you’ve passed. Sure you’ll have fans that will be behind you throughout your entire career, but many will come and go. I realized this only when it was pointed out to me looking at the charts for the top ten songs of the week. Whitney was back on top. But was she a week before her death? No. I then remembered when Michael Jackson died. I was buying new songs on iTunes and noticed he was in the top ten as well! I thought it was strange but didn’t think twice about it. The funny thing about media is that when something happens, they make a huge deal out of a story and will stretch it out till people stop listening. Why wasn’t my father’s funeral aired on television but Whitney’s was? My dad had a huge influence on many people’s lives and it makes me wonder why is it a big deal for her? People watched and cried during the funeral that didn’t even know her as an individual. But the media makes us feel like we grew up as next door neighbors and had play dates every day. Emotions draw us in even though they aren’t someone who is truly close to us. I just find it amazing that instead of having her moment and slowly being forgotten, the world feels the need to make her famous one more time… Even if it is only for a week after her death. I feel like this is something that could not have been predicted.

  20. Sheree said

    I have always been an avid supporter of Whitney Houston. I saw her as a role model until the drama about Bobby came out and her alcohol and drug abuse. But even then…very few of us can endure the lives we have and for many of us it can’t even compare. We get dumped and feel the need to binge drink our problems away because we are forced to see that person when we walk to class once or twice a day. However, celebrities have it extremely harder. Just like their successes are amplified, their shortcomings are too. Their lives are just as hard as they are easy. You can’t have one without the other. We build them up so high, but when they fall, they crash! Everything is broadcast through the media and we always know what’s going on in their lives and are so quick to be judgmental and hateful about it. Houston was a prime example of that. In my mind and in several other Houston fans, she is and always will be seen as beautiful regardless of her tragic ending. Just like the last line in the post- her home going…or death “will always be remembered as music that ended abruptly before the final verse and chorus were sung.”

  21. Melissa G said

    Whitney Houston was the greatest singer of all times, and hurts to have to let a wonderful singer slip through God’s hands. Becoming famous is not all what it is cracked up to be, it takes great dedication and heart to stay in the business. The best bet is to try to stay strong and genuine. Mass media can change everything during the peak moments of being famous. First of all it’s not really fair that the celebrities have to choose what life they want based on the mass media, the media can develop something good into bad and vice versa. It’s pretty common for famous people to get involved into drugs and alcohol usually after they are set in their career. Stress adds to any job and for someone to be in the spotlight at all times adds more stress. Whitney Houston has had to control being herself in front of the camera, what we see is the acting or a fake side of her in front of the camera, it’s when you go behind the scene that makes you who you are. No matter how you put it, being a celebrity is a job and in that job you are portraying an image that most will appeal to, but singing is acting, and acting is basically taking on a character and portraying that character, it’s not being yourself. It’s kinda of sad to think that just maybe if she wasnt a celebrity that she wouldn’t of been involved with drugs or alcohol.

  22. Caitlyn Hollifield said

    I believe that celebrities do have struggles just like a normal person that may not have millions of dollars. The only difference is that celebrities do have the money to get professional help, they just choose not to, because it could ruin their image. I think the pressure that is put on celebrities is a lot to handle. All they want to do is entertain us, so they will do anything to insure that they are able to. Whitney Houston was one of the many celebrities that went down that road. It is truly sad.

  23. Kylie Milusnic said

    Personally I am not a huge fan of Whitney Houston, but I can definitely appreciate her talent and drive! She ended her life on a low note that made fans pity her, and realize that they do not want their children to see that type of behavior. Torow states on page 127, “adults fretted that the violence, sexual suggestiveness, and misinterpretations of reality in many of the films they watched might bring about a slew of problems in their lives. In later years television programs, comic books, video games, sports programs, the Internet, and songs have all been accused of encouraging the same problems among US youth.” I think this is very closely related because not only are children and teens effected by what they hear and see in music and TV, they are affected by what the movie stars and singers do! I think that the behavior that Whitney displayed in her last years were anything but a good example to set for todays youth.

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