• -
  • irishtimes.com - Posted: March 22, 2009 @ 11:33 am

    Dying on the Front Page: Jade Goody (5 June 1981 – 22 March 2009)

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    The death of Jade Goody early this morning is of course an occasion of great sadness. In the words of John Donne, anyone’s death diminishes us. Her decision to leave the stage of life in such a public way helped to heighten awareness of cervical cancer and that is to her credit.And yet, and yet. I have already written about the implications for our traditional concept of privacy. People are too private about cancer in particular. Men above all don’t want to go for tests, in many cases, for fear it will be discovered. They seem to regard cancer as a secret shame or vice. When I myself was afflicted by prostate cancer two years ago (the treatment worked, I’m happy to say) I felt people were, if anything, too respectful of my privacy and too nervous about making contact.

    And yet, and yet. There should a certain dignity surrounding serious illness and, of course, death. As the old ballad says: “Let me like a soldier fall, with breast expanded to the ball.”

    Jade Goody, may she rest in peace, cashed in on her own demise. It was for a noble purpose, i.e., to support her two children. But one has to ask the question: who’s next? I suspect the master-publicist Max Clifford, who makes Machiavelli look like an amateur,  has been approached by others who are heading on that last journey. Naturally, one could not have a second terminally-ill person competing with Ms Goody, that would be too much even for the Fleet Street tabloids. But I shall not be surprised if another profiteering self-publicist at death’s door surfaces in the popular press.

    In the meantime here are John Donne’s fine sentiments, carried here in memory of Jade Goody whose chief talent was for relentless self-exposure but who faced death with some courage, who cared for her children and who may have prolonged the lives of others, and for all that we should be grateful:-

    No man is an island entire of itself; every man
    is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
    if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
    is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
    well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
    own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
    because I am involved in mankind.
    And therefore never send to know for whom
    the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

    • JBBC says:

      Jade Goody’s decision to die a very public death has done us a service in showing us the reality of cancer and taking it from behind closed doors, removing some of the taboo of cancer as you point out. However, the downside is that the media coverage and the almost salacious prurience this led to on the part of the public got out of hand. In the coming weeks there will be much talk of legacy as people look for meaning in the life and death of a celebrity, before Jade’s story inevitably fades from the public consciousness. My own hope as a cancer survivor myself, is that we can find a way to strike a more balanced portrayal of the realities of cancer and how we as a society approach death.

    • coffee maker says:

      Wow, cancer is scary – I’ve always assumed that I would be safe from all medical issues at least through my 20′s

    • valerie morrissey says:

      There is something seriously questionable about the publicity, the general melee and the public’s insatiable appetite surrounding this woman’s illness and death. In this age of media infiltration there is no privacy if you are a ” celebrity” and, yes, Jade Goodie did court and seek it as a means to provide for her young sons’ futures. However I have been constantly amazed that so many people in general believe that by reading “celebrity magazines” they are somehow connected to the people that are depicted in the stories and pictures that are features of these publications and that the readers actually believe that they know these people. This is a very clever way of ensuring magazine sales every week as people are drip-fed information relating to their own particular favourite “celebrity”

      In the case of Jade Goody’s illness and death, it has been played out on a tabloid/celebrity stage where so many people had information relating to her illness and her eventual demise that, for many, it must have been like losing a person that they knew and loved ( even though they may have never met Jade in real ife) I don’t believe that a dying head of state or president would have commanded the amount of column inches that the death of this woman has generated by the avarice of both the media conglomerates who are in business to make money and the purveyors who encourage the sales of said magazines.

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      I caught the end of a piece on Channel 4 news on Sunday evening where an Anglican bishop appeared to be making the case for Jade to regarded as a saint! Opposing this idea with some bafflement was Amanda Platell.

      I think you should be able to still get it here.


      I’m genuinely quite non-plussed by Jade’s passing in the same manner that I would be if I read a death notice in the paper about someone I didn’t know. It’s sad and regrettable in the abstract but why should I or anyone else who didn’t know the person be expected indeed demanded in some cases to ‘feel’ something about it.

Search Politics