End our self-harming celebrity obsession
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End our self-harming celebrity obsession

Admit it — we're not above soap opera addicts, harlequin novel champions or airport mobbing fangirls/boys.

We, after all, live in Thailand.

No matter how hard we want to avoid all this celebrity nonsense — from how they have orange peel phobia to who's been spotted going into who's condo — we consume this news, even in passing, with our feelings peppered with schadenfreude, contempt and, worst of all, curiosity.

We have been programmed to face celebrity news 24/7. It's in the mainstream media, online news outlets to social media feeds, and we complain about it, but can't help offering opinions on matters that are so far removed from us.

Last week, the recent case of actress Tangmo (watermelon in English) and pop star Tono served as a stark reminder that we're not above anything at all, even if we know that to shut all these people down is to ignore them. Still, we can't help it.

Unless you have been living under a huge rock in a made-up, fantasy land, you must have heard about Tangmo's suicide attempt due to Tono's public proclamation of his single status. The whirlwind, bizarre, very public romance finally ran its course, but no one could have guessed it would lead to the harrowing photos of the actress with tubes down her throat laying helpless on a hospital bed after overdosing on pills, with the pictures shared across social media platforms by her so called close friend.

I can't comment over the legitimacy of anything here, and I won't bother repeating hearsay or conspiracy theories, but it plainly amazes me that this particular bitter end has been capturing the nation with a firm grip. People were glued to TV screens when press conferences from both camps were aired. They were on every media channel that you can imagine. Your family and your friends as well as yourself couldn't stop posting about them.

It was like we were under some kind of horrible spell and we forgot to pay attention to the coming apocalyptic drought, questionable submarine deal, new "official" state appointments, Greek economic tragedy and the plight of the Uyghur and the possible diplomatic consequences. We had to turn ourselves into pop psychologists and celebrity bandits over the end of a relationship of two showbiz personalities. I don't have a reason for such obsession, but maybe we, Thais, are facing hard, cold reality in all arenas — from politics, economics to the environment — and we need to escape, embroil ourselves in someone else's misfortunes.

With the aid of social media along with the celebrities' marketing need to thrive on it, we've been subjected to their lives more than ever. It's a two-way street, mind you.

Getting our attention is how they make money, but where's the line? Some famous names complain about the lack of privacy, which is rather ridiculous when they sell off their personal space for advertorial money, or to flaunt their wealth. Then again, equally ridiculous are the fans who demand to know every detail about their beloved stars. Some fan clubs even go as far as dictating whom they can date.

The age-old debate over celebrity privacy still persists, and it will continue to do so as long as cash can still be made, and we value all the glitz and glamour over talent and experience.

I feel we have more or less reached a final frontier now that we had to see Tangmo's suicide attempt in photos and clips. While the public is divided between #teamtono and #teamtangmo, I am more perplexed at how the so called friend got away with exposing these garish photos and clips when he deserved to be admonished for such poor judgement, and how a fragile girl who has just tried to commit self-harm is back on social media the day after.

Why are we busy trying to figure out who to blame for the end of this messy relationship when we should really be concerned about media representation of this subject matter, our collective obsession, questions of celebrity privacy and social media mistreatment.

It also irks me no end that words like "mental illness", " bipolar" and "suicide" are tossed around casually with words such as "staged", "fake" and "conned". We don't know the truth behind all these happenings, and we probably never will.

But, what's more worrying is that mental illness and suicidal tendencies are not fantasies. They are real. They are as destructive as, say, cancer, and should be treated as such. Those who suffer such illnesses already find it hard to find compassion. They are brushed off as "acting out". The wide spectrum of mental health and psychotic problems are as real as poverty, and to have it treated like a circus only does a disservice towards greater social understanding.

So maybe it's high time for us to stop paying attention, and for them to ease off the extreme publicity — whether it is intentional or not.

Onsiri Pravattiyagul writes about music and contemporary culture for Life.

Onsiri Pravattiyagul

Entertainment Editor

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