Recently I finally got the chance to watch Amy, the 2015 documentary about the meteoric rise, and ultimate fall, of Amy Winehouse. Although I have never truly listened to Amy Winehouse (besides hearing classics like Rehab and Valerie creep on the radio every now and then) I was really excited to watch the film. I heard great things, and to be honest, who can resist a tragic, true story about someone who seemed to have it all?
To me, the documentary lived up to its reputation. It was raw and honest, showing real video footage of Amy as her stardom grew, accompanied by voice interviews of people who met her or were close to her heart. There was no moral of the story – the writers didn’t seem to be creating any theme. So it looks like the viewers get an honest, objective perspective, and can take away from the film whatever they wish.
And, while the film was also an emotional rollercoaster, one thing stood out to me more than anything. As Amy’s spiral into substance abuse continued, and her fame grew – her right to be a human being had slowly, steadily disappeared.
This could be seen in the way that she was dragged to a festival performance she made clear she didn’t want to go to. Or the way her dad brought video cameras for a reality show to what she wanted to be a seclusive vacation away from her normal life. Or when she was walking down the street, trying to get into her car as paparazzi shoved lights and cameras in her face, while the voices of her friends pointed out how badly she wanted to give up her life of fame. Those scenes hurt my heart more than anything.
On the outside, to fans, Amy’s life may have appeared as a glamorous train wreck. But, watching the film, it was just…sad.
When I think of sadness and tragedy in people’s lives, I think about an article I once read a long time ago (I’ve tried to find it for the purpose of this blog, but my efforts were in vain). This article expressed how, in real life, sadness is mundane. Pain is boring. Tragedy can ruin people’s lives, stability, and mindset. And experiencing these things is not the slightest bit interesting.
However, in movies, music, and often our minds – pain, sadness, and trouble are romanticized. Tragedy seems interesting – almost thrilling, like it’s something to keep us alive. It tells a story.
After watching Amy, it looks like Amy Winehouse’s media image was a victim to this romanticization. From the outside, she was an entertaining story. A topical piece of drama. Fans and casual internet surfers alike could come across the latest update on Amy Winehouse, and whether they let out a chuckle or felt pain in their heart for her, it was just a story to them.
And, of course, as her story grew and continued to be interesting, why would the paparazzi leave her alone? It’s their job to get a good glimpse of a bigger picture. To film Amy Winehouse walking down the street was one thing. To catch Amy Winehouse stumbling around drunk…or tripping…or having a meltdown?! That was huge.
But to watch all that happened through Amy, it just looks sad, cruel, and lacking of any sort of empathy whatsoever. At one point in the documentary, a video of George Lopez announcing the 2009 Grammy nominees pops up. George announces Amy Winehouse and what she was nominated for, and follows with the joke, “Someone call and wake her up at 6 PM to tell her.” (Some people say he also calls her “a drunk” after the clip, but I have no proof of that myself.)
Speaking honestly, if I heard that joke at the time, I probably would’ve chuckled, or at least acknowledged the humor in a lighthearted manner. And my subconscious would not have been thinking, ‘Ha! That’s funny because Amy Winehouse is a sad train wreck spiraling downward to serious health problems and a young death.’ The chuckle would have come toward the honesty of the observation, and my little knowledge of Amy Winehouse as someone who didn’t appear to have it together. And I would not have thought of it any more.
But if it was I, or someone I loved, who was dealing with such substance abuse and mental health issues being mocked by the public – god knows how painful it would have been.
The truth of Amy Winehouse’s life was not romantic in any way. A lot of it was a tale of sadness, lack of control, and issues that were not properly resolved in a healthy manner. But, in the media, it was a spectacle. And by so many, it was romanticized as a tale of a talented, deep singer with too much passion, and a simple lack of supervision.
And it kind of makes me sad for those we see in the media today, who have become a bit of a, well, train wreck.
And I hope I’m able to spend my life being empathetic toward others, whether they’re my closest friends or some story on TMZ.