Shocking fashion statements are nothing new, but in the past few years attempts to connect with the new generation of ‘edgy’ teenagers has pushed its limit. One of the more recent, disturbing statements comes in the form of recent news that late front man Kurt Cobain’s suicide letter is being printed on shirts and being sold on Ebay. They have now been removed from the site, but they pose a question I’ve been asking myself after doing some of my own research: where is the line drawn between honoring musicians and disrespecting them, or wanting to draw a profit? In today’s digital age, where we receive news in minutes, when is it time to put the iPhones down and step back, to realize that these weren’t just musicians, but people?
Taking a look at the deaths of artists Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson, the evidence can speak for itself. After Houston’s death, Sony boosted prices of her music on iTunes by almost 60%, only hours after she was discovered dead in her home. With regard to Michael Jackson, the race by various media outlets to have the last picture of a living Michael Jackson completely overstepped the boundaries of a man who was, at the time, being put into an ambulance. Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour’ was the ninth-highest grossing tour of all time. Michael Jackson, since his death in 2009, has made the most money out of any dead celebrity and even had the most earnings out of all celebrities by the end of 2009.
T-shirts with the familiar face of Bob Marley are sold every day. Most of the time it is not out of respect for his music, but because of his relation to marijuana which he used for religious purposes only. Marley has almost been degraded to becoming a symbol for stoners to be printed on a t-shirt – with hair made to look like marijuana leaves.
More often than not, companies are just trying to make a quick buck by manipulating the people who are also suffering the loss of these musicians. I wouldn’t doubt that if every single member of One Direction mysteriously died, businesses would waste no time bringing in merchandise, a tribute movie, Greatest Hits albums and various products to reel in the millions of emotionally overwhelmed fans all over the world. It isn’t hard to grab the money of people who want to give a ‘tribute’ to late musicians by rereleasing songs they’ve heard twenty times already; not only are the fans being exploited, but the family of these late musicians are as well. I wouldn’t want cameras shoved in my face, or my brother/sister/friend’s name plastered everywhere and having it called a ‘tribute’. Not to speak for all families, but I would want time to mourn privately without labels trying to talk to me about ‘When should we release details on the movie to the public?’
The media and profit-crazed companies continuously overstep personal and moral boundaries. Being famous seems to come with a lack of privacy, even in death. Everything is in the name of every-minute, up-to-date entertainment that plays upon the emotions of fans. The rerelease of albums, new movies, new merchandise, and tours in celebration of late musicians may just be another chance for greedy companies and people to manipulate fans. I’m glad the Cobain suicide shirts are gone.
Words by Tori