On Speculation and Boundaries…

Brittany Murphy died today.

It took exactly five seconds for the speculation to start up about why she would die of cardiac arrest at the tender age of 32, and not quite double that for the snarky comments to seep out of the woodwork. Because certainly if she had an existing heart condition we all would have known about it, since we have that right to her privacy.

What we have, much like the public consumption we have of celebrities, especially women, is a perceived right to make snap judgments about their lives and their health.

Brittany Murphy’s death is tragic on its own merits. She was talented and only 32.

And if there is any truth to the speculation, then she was sick. If she was indeed sick, then we, despite what we think, do not have a right to flaunt that illness about. She was ill, and she lost. And to me, that means something, on a human, and mortal level. There but for the grace and all of that. When I read the comments that speculate about what illnesses she certainly had or what addictions would be necessary to cause this premature death it is like nails on a chalkboard while chewing tinfoil whilst walking on broken glass but not the fun Annie Lennox version with adorably mistreated Hugh Laurie. If there is any truth to it then she was one of us. She was possibly like me and she lost. That scares me at my core. That was one of us in there and instead of having a moment to appreciate the gravity of that we are ripping her apart and we don’t even know. We Don’t Fucking Know.

Also, last I checked it is bad form to speak ill of the dead. But I suppose I am still an idealistic, silly girl to expect people to treat other people with human dignity. I have spent too much time in social justice for that.

If not, then her death was simply a tragic and random happenstance.

If any information is released, we have to wait for it and presume that it is the truth, and if not, we have to go on with what we have.

And either way, it isn’t our business, really.

She died, and that itself is enough. It should be. She gave us entertainment and amusement. She did what she loved with her life.

We should give her a modicum of respect in death.

May she rest in peace.

About Ouyang Dan

is an extremely proggy-liberal, formerly single mommy, Native American, invisibly disabled, U.S. Navy Veteran, social justice activist and aspiring freelance writer currently living in South Korea on Uncle Sam's dime. She has a super human tolerance for caffeine and chocolate and believes she should use those powers for good. She said should. She is not a concise person, and sometimes comes on a little aggressively in comments. Sometimes her right arm still twitches when military brass walks past her, but she would rather be reading YA Lit or pwning n00bs. She can be found being cliche about music, overthinking pop culture, and grumbling about whatever else suits her fancy at her personal website, random babble.... She also writes about military issues for Change.org's Women's Rights blog. If you have something interesting to say email her at ouyangdan [at] disabledfeminists [dot] com. Lawyers in Italy looking to hold lottery winnings in her bank account may wait longer for reply.

15 thoughts on “On Speculation and Boundaries…

  1. Thank you for posting. As a woman around Murphy’s age with multiple chornic health conditions her death is frightening. I feel the conversation around it is disrespectful and sad. Whatever she died of is tragic and her loss hurts. She is gone and her husband and family are left without her. However, your post is a solace to those who want to discuss this and grieve both for her loss (from a fan standpoint) and for the what her death represents for those of us who are young and ill.

  2. I was waiting for Yahoo’s headline to change from an announcement of her death to speculation.

    I am so glad I avoid celebrity sites and tv news.

    I recently saw Clueless for the first time and loved her. She was amazing in everything she was in, and it was such a sad shock to see that today.

    All we know and all we need to know is that a young woman died.

  3. She was possibly like me and she lost.

    This hit me hard. A beautiful post, and thanks for making it.

  4. “She was possibly like me and she lost.”

    Oh, man, ouch. Yes.

    I felt so much the same when Heath Ledger went. I was so upset about it, on so many levels. Argh. I can’t talk about that any more or I’ll just get going, and that’s not why we’re here.

    I feel so bad for Brittany Murphy. She had the most amazing, unfeigned, goofy laugh. I didn’t much like many of the movies she was in, but I loved HER in everything I saw her in. She was beautiful in a very accessible way, she was gifted at appearing unfeigned, and she wasn’t afraid to make herself look silly just because she was pretty, too, like a lot of beautiful actresses appear to be.

    My heart goes out to her family and friends, and to all of her fans who loved her more than I did.

  5. I have never heard of Brittany Murphy. However, it is still sad that she died.

    As for all the speculation, I think it may be because we don’t want to think of the fact that there is absolutely no guarantee that you would know if someone else, or even yourself, has an illness that could lead to early death. It is in fact quite possible that the first sign of cardiac disease is sudden death, but we don’t want to know this. Therefore, there *must* somehow be an explanation. When really there may not be one, and if there is one, it is none of our business.

  6. Thanks, everyone.

    Astrid~ Yes. That was the first sign that anything was wrong with my dad. I know 32 is young, but 44 isn’t much older, really, when you think about it.

    Part of this thing is, I don’t get why it matters so much to so many people. Why is speculation so much fun (don’t answer that, heh.)?

  7. My mom was commenting on further details, and I said it’s none of our business, and my mom said, “They make it ours.” (Access Hollywood was starting.)

    We don’t have to watch, so we didn’t.

  8. Ouyang Dan – Why do we care?

    *tsk, tsk* Hollywood people. So typical. That would never happen to me. /speculation about the speculators.

  9. Here’s the thing: Celebrities do put themselves out there for us to see. They decide to act because they want to act and have a desire to make movies. Whether they do it because they want a camera up their arse or because they just love making movies…I don’t know. It’s not my place to say. I am not that person.

    They are people, and that is all I need to know. They don’t ask to be our role models. They don’t sign contracts that say that their personal lives are our business. It isn’t in the fine print that we get to know all the ugly details. We don’t have to watch and we don’t have to spend money on what they produce. There is no obligation. The make millions because WE make an active choice to spend that money, not because there is an obligation.

    Comments naming specifics on speculation or giving any details on Ms. Murphy’s CoD or condition or making judgments on her as a person will be deleted permanently. That is my call. Sorry if it hurts your sensibilities. Actually, no, I’m not. This was a post to remind us that a human being died.

  10. I find this sort of thing SO annoying, especially since there is a simple and reasonable explanation: she experienced cardiac arrest, and dies. Yes, at 32. It happens. A LOT. I’m a medic, and we deal with this sort of thing a lot more often that you’d think. It’s just one of those THINGS: the human heart relies on electrical impulses to function, sometimes those impulses go POING for no known reason (including minor and all but undetectable arrhythmias that are never diagnosed because they don’t cause any problems), the heart goes into Ventricular Fibrillation, and unless you’re lucky enough to have someone VERY competent at CPR around, that’s it, you’re dead. At 18, at 23, at 32, at whatever.

    People are so F@#$@# ignorant, and like to fill the vacuum of their ignorance with baseless speculation, ridiculous stereotypes, and general stupidity.


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