For those of you that don’t know, we lost one of the good ones this weekend. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, a fat-positive, body-acceptance activist and part time male actress died of a heroin overdose in his Greenwich Village apartment yesterday.
Despite not knowing Phillip Seymour Hoffman personally, I am stricken with irreparable grief at the loss of his life. In my search for tranquility and solace, I’ve turned to the usual comforts – posting heartfelt messages to Facebook, Instagramming filtered pictures of him when he was in his twenties, and doing my best to suppress my glee when my Klout score went up from the inflow of likes and shares.
Unfortunately though, I made the mistake of reading news coverage of his death, and as usual, I am appalled and outraged. The official report states that he passed due to a heroin overdose, which is extremely problematic. In fact, the whole situation surrounding his death is problematic. I’m offended on so many levels, that I just can’t even with this right now. Ugh.
Can we talk about heroin for a second? Whenever I have discussions with friends about legalizing drugs, even the most libertarian of the lot always append “except of course for like, crack and heroin,” to their calls for decriminalized, deregulated drug markets. For some reason, crack and heroin are seen as “the bad drugs.” Why is that? Is it because they’re more addictive? Well, maybe more so than marijuana, but certainly not more so than alcohol or nicotine. Is it because they are more deadly? Well, again, in regards to pot yes, but alcohol no.
In fact there’s only one reason why crack and heroin are deemed completely unacceptable – crack is for black people and heroin has a feminine name.
The white male patriarchy has so much control over our lives that even our drugs are victimized. Do you think there would be this much scrutiny over Hoffman’s “drug problem” if he had overdosed on something called Bro? Of course not, it would be seen as an unfortunate but predictable accident – a consequence of a calculated and expected risk for celebrities, akin to a race car driver dying in a collision or a conservative politician dying of secret gay bathroom AIDS in a nightclub. Not so for the girl-named drug, heroin. No, we have to discuss the stranglehold it had on this man’s life, like an overbearing nagging wife, or an inequitable child support payment. Heroin is seen as a “bitch” instead of just a cool tough guy like cocaine, who uses his greed to benefit everyone like a dominant lion sharing his kill.
Furthermore, can we stop calling it an overdose?
There’s this insidious idea that somehow, we, as adults, aren’t capable of deciding how much we need to consume. We’re all familiar with fat-shaming, but that’s only because body-sizes are visible. We’re under a constant barrage of being shamed for consumption, even by the very people that want us to consume. Eat this, but not too much of it. Buy this smartphone but remember to turn it off and connect with people sometimes, wear these t-shirts but not all of them at the same time. Excuse me, I can dress myself, and if I want to wear all of my t-shirts at once, I will.
It wasn’t an overdose, it was an accidental death caused by someone choosing to do a specific amount of a drug. When we use coded language like “overdose,” we relinquish power from ourselves and hand it back over to the patriarchy. We depower our cause and empower the invisible force that is presumably responsible for everything that isn’t tailored to make my life better and confirm my opinions.
I’m also offended that the media still continues to report deaths. Or at least that they continue to report them without some kind of trigger warning. I’ll have to admit, this part is somewhat personal and extremely hard for me to talk about but…
I discovered recently that I am going to die at some point.
I know that sounds silly, but really death as a reality and not just an abstraction just isn’t something you can fully comprehend until you’re in your twenties, just trying to experience what it means to be a creative type.
Suddenly you realize, hey, my parents are going to stop paying my rent at some point, I might not be able to make amazing art, and holy shit, I might not be that special.
To me, that’s death.
Here in my mid-twenties, sicklied over with the pale cast of thought, I now comprehend myself as an atrophic, impermanent object. But more importantly, I’m worried that people won’t think I’m as significant as I think I am, and that’s really scary. At least Phillip Seymour Hoffman was famous, what if I’m not famous before I die? What if my only fans are my mom and dad and my girlfriends? That’s a really scary thought.
It’s okay if you don’t fear death, but I do, and people shouldn’t talk about things that bother me. Death is an issue that, statistically speaking, affects 100% of women. Something that happens to 50% of the world’s population isn’t just a feminist issue, it’s everyone’s issue, okay? So can we just not with death anymore? Thanks.
The most offensive part of all of this however, is that I’m forced to make someone else’s death about me. Underneath at all, I’d like to think that I’m not a selfish person; that I have a good heart and mind and my intentions are to help the world. I also know that most people feel the same way. But, somehow, we can’t control ourselves. We have to get online and use a tragic event to promote a personal brand.
Why is that? Is it our fault? Of course it isn’t, it’s someone else’s fault. It’s everyone’s fault but mine.
In the end, what am I left with? Another celebrity has been taken from me, and in even in this time of grief and outrage, I can’t afford an expectation of privacy from the media. The system chooses an opportune time – the death of someone close to me, to drive home its message of power and dominance through offensive language and thought, and ultimately, I am trying to capitalize on the death of my good friend. I am sickened by the world for making me this way.
Rest in peace, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, may you find in death what you could not find in life – that killer screenplay I mailed to you about a couple of girls just being girls.