Saturday, March 28, 2009
The little girl and Natasha Richardson
Everyone has heard by now about little Morgan McCracken from Mentor, Ohio (my neck of the woods) who was hit on the head by a batted baseball and had a delayed presentation of an epidural hematoma that required an emergency craniectomy. She's now well and is expected to make a full recovery.
Little Morgan was the darling of the internet news cycle primarily because of the temporal relationship of her injury to the unfortunate case of Natasha Richardson. According to the McCracken family, after watching a news report on the Richardson tragedy, they became concerned about a headache Morgan developed and took her to the ER. The consensus of the mainstream media and blogosphere is that the intensive coverage of the Richardson saga is what saved the life of Morgan McCracken.
A story like this, with all its post modern overtones, is highly appealing to me. Obviously, real human beings are involved. Natasha Richardson died tragically. A little girl almost succumbed to a seemingly minor injury. But the idea that our celebrity driven media culture can be a primary source of life-saving knowledge is something that ought to astound all of us. If Jane Doe falls on that bunny hill and dies two days later, no one ever hears about it. But Natasha Richardson is a Tony Award-winning actress. She's a celebrity. So her story gets the full cluster bomb treatment from the MSM and the internet for a couple of news cycles until all the fuss dies down (usually give or take 72 hours). Her mere celebrity is what enabled her to become a hero to the McCracken family. For most Americans, "Natasha Richardson" is a brand rather than an actual human being. The name has been disembodied from the actual person for the sake of celebrity. And our culture can't get enough of it. What if the McCracken family were atypical Americans who didn't watch TV, didn't mindlessly surf the internet, but instead spent quiet evenings at home reading the classics with Mozart on softly in the background? Would Morgan still be with us? Have we come to a point where mass marketed, superficial pop culture is so pervasive that we cannot live safely without it? Is it so ingrained in our national psyche that we now actually rely on it, to some extent? A little girl was struck on the skull by a batted hardball and subsequently developed severe headaches. Do parents really need the story of Natasha Richardson hammering away at their visual/auditory cortexes to decide that, hey, maybe we ought to get our little girl to the hospital? The whole thing strikes me as being demoralizingly sad commentary on our culture...