Today I heard Janice Ian's rendition of Pete Seeger's song "Who Killed Norma Jean?", written in the style of the nursery rhyme "Who Killed Cock Robin?" To me, it wasn't a song about one woman who died 40 years ago, but a plea on behalf of all the beautiful young women who were (and are) thrown into the public arena at tender ages, idolized, then thrown away when their personal problems became too embarrassing. I thought of Edie Sedgwick. Jean Harlow. Anna Nicole. All of them uniquely human, but treated purely as commodities and allowed to ruin themselves with drugs, horrible relationships, and disastrous career choices until they were simply used up and didn't want to continue living.
Blame the media if you want, but we're the consumers of their product. Blame their managers, but we're the ones who buy the albums or watch the movies. Blame their families, but they're caught up in the same whirlpool of fame and destruction.
Once the women are beaten down so far they will never get up, then we idolize them again. Canonize them, even. They are our saints of pop culture, the ruined angels who were just "too fragile" for life on Earth, to be forever enshrined in mass-produced iconography. We forget their humanity as soon as we destroy it.
If the cruel jokes and nonstop scrutiny become too much for Britney Spears and something tragic happens, we are all to blame. Stop before it's too late.
Who Killed Norma Jean?
by Pete Seeger
Who killed Norma Jean?
I, said the City, as a civic duty,
I killed Norma Jean.
Who saw her die?
I, said the Night, and a bedroom light,
We saw her die.
Who'll catch her blood?
I, said the Fan, with my little pan,
I'll catch her blood.
Who'll make her shroud?
I, said the Lover, my guilt to cover,
I'll make her shroud.
Who'll dig her grave?
The tourist will come and join in the fun,
He'll dig her grave.
Who'll be chief mourners?
We who represent, and lose our ten percent.
We'll be the chief mourners.
Who'll bear the pall?
We, said the Press, in pain and distress,
We'll bear the pall.
Who'll toll the bell?
I, screamed the mother, locked in her tower,
I'll pull the bell.Who'll soon forget?
I, said the Page, beginning to fade,
I'll be the first to forget.
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