The media was in an uproar Thursday over the medical complications of 81-year-old E! host, Joan Rivers. She stopped breathing, they said. She was in critical condition, they reported dutifully. Poor Joan, a beacon of light and grandeur–or so read the carefully selected tweets featured in the article about it on E!’s website.
Aside from the ridiculous tendency of Americans and other citizens of the world to follow celebrity news and drama with baited breath, and Joan Rivers’ clear lack of A-list standing in Hollywood, the woman deserves no sympathy.
I don’t care how many people watch her show or how high her ratings may be. Rivers has built the second coming of her career by eviscerating and when deemed appropriate, flattering people for their looks. “Oh, but it doesn’t matter! They’re celebrities! They knew what they were getting into when they chased the fame.”
They might have known, and perhaps that’s what they get. But that doesn’t change the fact that commentary like Joan Rivers’ on her egregious show, Fashion Police, reaches the impressionable minds of young girls and women watching her and her gossipy clique, learning that even perfected celebrities cannot always meet the very standards they help set for society. Women learn the importance of appearance and material, and the criticism they deserve if they don’t live up to it (while it is ultimately up to every individual to find self-acceptance and determine their own values, growing up surrounded with this incessant blare of the media doesn’t help). Some may argue this type of mockery is for laughs, but what does it say about American society–or at least the segment that values this type of humor–that it takes mean-spirited, superficial insults to be amused?
But that’s the least of Rivers’ problems. During the most recent conflict between Israel and Gaza, she angrily, emotionally, and irrationally screamed into a camera that Palestinians deserved to die. She repeated tired talking points that it was their own fault and she owed them no sympathy. She called them “idiots” for not being able to make it out of their homes before the IDF bombed them. Evidently, she considers the fact that Israel makes claims that they “warn” civilians that they’re going to decimate their homes as a sign of humanitarian tendency. In the same rant, Rivers celebrated that at least the Palestinians with the lowest IQs were dead because they were too stupid to escape the bombs. She slammed singer Selena Gomez for expressing public support for Gaza and indicted the idea that she should have sympathy for those
non-Israelis who died.
Joan Rivers is a talking head on the most popular entertainment news station in America. Her influence is palpable and her hate is inexcusable. To be able to condone and celebrate the destruction of innocent life so callously and so viciously speaks volumes about her character, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering the way she approaches elite celebrities.
That Joan Rivers brand is so dependent on criticizing and dragging others down with judgments on superficial appearances makes it unsurprising that she could so easily collectivize an entire group of people in the Middle East based on biases, unchecked facts, and gross assumptions.
But what’s worse is that what she says sells. People watch her commentary and bask in it, loving the hate she spews toward the celebrities they resent for possessing the superficial values they have been taught to covet. What’s worse is that people cheered her on for declaring that innocent civilians deserve to be dead, and that while she received backlash for it, many people reposted that scathing rant as evidence of reason and rationality. It spoke for them.
I would never wish death on anyone, nor poor health or suffering, and I even feel sorry for Rivers’ family and those who care about her. I don’t think she ‘deserves to die,’ but I hope her near-death experience is a reality check enough for her to stop wishing it upon others. If there is someone who doesn’t deserve anyone’s sympathy, it’s the violent, hateful personality that is Joan Rivers, and the people who have made her fame and recognition possible.