Somehow I felt like we'd been building toward a Henry Fuseli moment. The Owen Wilson wrist-slashing documentation (where are the scars?), the ghoulish video loops of Anna Nicole Smith slur-babbling in clown make up. There was the morbid preoccupation with defining Britney Spear's mental state, and pathetic images of her, wild-eyed, as they wheeled her off to the hospital. Frighteningly soulless online twitter of her obituary having been written and ready to go at the AP was supplanted only when Heath Ledger exited this mortal coil. Then I made the mistake of following the parasitical rush over to Gawker and watched hundreds of people snap photos of his body bag getting wheeled into an ambulance.
update-- a bit of synchronicity: Jon Pareles' piece in today's NY Times makes a more succinct statement than mine about the front row seat we all have to "celebrity" crack-up. (Of course, I also realize I neglected to include Amy Winehouse in the list above.) "There's a sleazy symbiosis that connects instantaneous worldwide visibility, publicity, marketing and narcissism."
oh and another thing: I can't help thinking, too, about the days when one could pay a penny and take a walk through Bedlam. Visitors "delighted in" the patients' 'frenzical extravagancies.'" The noisy crowd of gaping sightseers found it a rare diversion when not attending public executions...
(The History of Bethlem by Jonathan Andrews, Routledge - 1997)
Henry Fuseli, born Johann Heinrich Füssli (1741–1825) in Switzerland, produced dynamic, dark-themed and somewhat overwrought proto-Romantic works. He became a teacher at London's Royal Academy and was an influence on William Blake.
Images: Mad Kate 1806-07, 2 versions of The Nightmare 1782, 1790, Silence 1799-1801.