Whitney’s death brings out the assholes on Twitter

My niece and nephew, Jaycie and Max, have reached the age where they’ve become big fans of Saturday Night Live. At fourteen and thirteen, they’re probably growing right into SNL’s target audience. I can say that at practically FORTY, I’ve grown out of SNL’s target. I find the show more befuddling with each episode. I just don’t get it. It’s not funny to me, at all. Occasionally, they’ll be a sketch that provokes laughter, but more often than not I just shrug and shake my head.

Over Christmas vacation Jaycie and Max were here at Supergenius HQ with Sister #4. They were trolling through Hulu showing her their favorite sketches. It was mostly Stefan and Gilly. Sister #4 told them about her favorite SNL characters, specifically Mary Katherine Gallagher, and how she really liked that sketch of the Miley Cyrus show with Steve Buscemi and Maya Rudolph as Whitney Houston.

A lot of the humor of the sketch was lost on Jaycie and Max. They had no idea who Whitney Houston was or why someone would make fun of her. I immediately transformed into an 8th grade version of myself. I rambled on about how Whitney was this beautiful amazing pop singer in the 80s. How she had a ton of #1 hits and it was controversial when she married Bobby Brown who used to be in New Edition and then went solo and he was kind of a bad boy. I’m pretty sure there was some really bad singing included with the lecture. It was effusive and quickly bored my audience. I tried to bring it back to a Mary Katherine Gallagher sketch featuring Whitney in her prime, but we couldn’t find it on Hulu (there’s a shitty version on YouTube).

The short lecture was given by that 8th grade version of myself who thought it was important for posterity to write down that on March 2, 1986 one of my favorite songs was “How Will I Know”.

It was also that 8th grade version of me who shed a few tears last night upon learning of Houston’s death at the age of 48. But it was grown-up me who got pissed off at the callous and, well, just plain meanness of people on Twitter last night.

Now I understand that not everyone is going to care about Houston’s music or her career or her death. That’s fine, different strokes and all that. However, you have to be some kind of cruel, mean-spirited asshole to crack jokes about someone a few minutes after their death is announced. It pissed me off when people did it after Amy Winehouse died and it pissed me off last night.

I just don’t get what motivates people to do that. Sure, I expect the jokes to come eventually. It’s inevitable. I grew up in the 80s, I remember the Christina McAullife jokes that were whispered in the hallways after the Challenger exploded. But it was probably months after the tragedy when I first heard a joke. And it was whispered because we knew it was wrong.

But now, people shout their derision at the moment of death. Are they so desperate for attention that they want to be the first one to make a joke that they can’t even wait an hour, a minute before cracking that joke? What does it say about us as a society? Other than we are cruel, heartless assholes.

I was stunned by a lot of the men (it was all men) I follow on Twitter last night. Usually I take great pride in the progressiveness and sensitivity of the people I follow. My heart swelled when they cheered about the overturning of Prop 8 in California, and when they were outraged by Planned Parenthood being defunded by Susan G. Komen.

Last night I saw a new side of them and it was sad. It was as though the thought of just shutting up about something they didn’t care about never occurred to them. Their jokes about crack being whack and #TooSoon? were not cute or funny. In fact, it just showed that deep down they’re assholes, and that’s really disappointing.

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  1. Bill Roehl 12.Feb.12 at 1:26 pm

    She chose to make a joke of her life and career through self-destructive behavior. I don’t think it’s appropriate to make jokes about it but to be angry over others who may have seen the irony is a bit more than I’m willing to go for her.

    1. Jodi 12.Feb.12 at 2:40 pm

      @Bill Roehl, I don’t see how dying of (what we assume, I don’t think there’s an official ruling yet) addiction is ironic. Those people weren’t making a commentary on irony. They were trying to be the first with the funny. Commentary takes time and reflection and thought, something that cannot be done within 5 minutes of finding out someone has died.

      I don’t expect everyone to be angry about the callous jokes at Whitney’s expense, or even upset about her death. Not everyone has a connection to her music. I get that. However, I also get that a lot of people were mourning, were saddened by her death and as humans the least we can do is give people a little space to mourn.

      I’m not asking for a week-long moratorium on crass jokes. . . but seriously people were cracking wise within minutes of the death announcement. MINUTES. That’s cold no matter the situation, and I think it’s perfectly rational to be angry when people show you the very worst of their personalities.

  2. todd 13.Feb.12 at 2:18 am

    I think people sometimes use humor to try to make sense of something too overwhelming to explain. It has always been that way. I can remember the punchlines ricocheting shortly after the space shuttle Challenger tragedy, for example. Humor, for some, is a coping mechanism. I would like to believe that the majority of those people aren’t cold – just stupid. Maybe that’s a deeper tragedy?


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