Grief Porn: the money shot

4 Dec

cricket

The Courier Mail coverage of cricketer Phil Hughes’ funeral includes a heart-rending close-up of his dad Greg, face contorted with grief, carrying his son’s coffin on his shoulder. It also includes a similarly heartbreaking shot of Hughes’ mother Virginia, in deep grief and shock.

I wondered what could be the purpose of these shots. Anyone with a gram of imagination would know the parents are devastated at the loss of their son. None of us needs to see images of their devastation in a newspaper to convince us this is the case.

I could barely look at the images. Not because I’m squeamish about grief, but because I couldn’t help thinking how I would feel if similar images of me and my grief-stricken family were used to sell newspapers. I think that is the only possible reason for these photographs  to have been taken, to sell newspapers. I don’t think there is any public interest issue involved in showing us close-ups of the Hughes’ family’s shock and devastation. It’s grief porn. It’s disgusting.

A subject photographed without consent surely becomes an object. If the image is then used for profit, the objectification is complete. We are so inured to this process it generally passes unremarked, but really, what right does the Courier Mail have to profit from a deeply private expression of grief?

The funeral was a public event, it can be argued. Anyone attending was fair game for the media, no matter what their state of mind. This apparently justifies appropriating grief as spectacle, for Murdoch’s profit.

The agonisingly distorted faces of the bereaved family will always be the money shot in grief porn. As if their loss is not enough to bear.

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10 Responses to “Grief Porn: the money shot”

  1. 8 Degrees of Latitude December 4, 2014 at 5:32 pm #

    I agree with you Jennifer. Grossly insensitive intrusion isn’t what true journalism is about. The Murdoch tabloid Courier-Mail is not the The Courier-Mail that I once worked for.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. goodrumo December 4, 2014 at 6:23 pm #

    Yep. Agreed.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. samjandwich December 5, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

    “A subject photographed without consent surely becomes an object.”

    This is something I’ve always been uncomfortable with, perhaps more in the context of papparazzi pursuit of celebrities, but yes grief porn as here is quite possibly a more extreme example. Photographing someone without their consent, and without their knowledge that it’s occurring, is I would argue on the same spectrum as rape – since it’s effectively a forcible appropriation and violation of a person’s sense of spiritual and bodily integrity.

    Like

    • Jennifer Wilson December 9, 2014 at 6:27 am #

      Mrs Chook once made the rude mistake of trying to photograph a woman without asking in a market in San Cristobal de Las Casa, Mexico. We were chased away. Later discovered there was a belief that photographs stole or damaged the soul.

      A belief that, after my recent experiences with personal photography, I can quite understand.

      Like

  4. Gruffbutt December 9, 2014 at 2:08 am #

    The wider coverage of his death has been grief porn in a way. It’s like the Oz media have been waiting for our very own Princess Di story and cricketers are the closest thing to royalty we seem to have.

    Of course it was tragic, but he was playing cricket, FFS, and the blanket coverage of everyone’s grieving – how they’ve grieved, how they’re still grieving, how it affects future test series for grieving cricketers – goes on and on and on, and if anyone dares – as I’m doing right now but in a forum that’s not going to attract much attention (not that this forum isn’t attention-worthy) – to question this totally overblown reaction, they’ll be castigated as heartless (I might still cop it – who knows who’s lurking?). Sure, dominate the sports news with it if you must, but constantly across the main news? Perspective? And, yes, I’ve got it, you first troll who might land here. And yes, I’ve got a heart, but I also want something to feed what’s left of my brain.

    Grief porn is fantastic for distracting people from thinking about the bigger issues of the day. Enough already.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson December 9, 2014 at 6:30 am #

      I still don’t understand how one feels “grief” about the death of a stranger. Sadness, compassion for family, a sense of loss, but grief? Another example of profound human feeling co-opted as a marketing exercise.

      Like

      • doug quixote December 9, 2014 at 8:05 pm #

        What is a stranger? I never met Gough, but i cried like a baby when he died.

        And who can say how far grief should go? There is no set of guidelines. It seemed a bit over the top about Hughes, but that is a personal judgement. It would be nice to be farewelled like that.

        (DQ sighs)

        Liked by 1 person

        • Gruffbutt December 10, 2014 at 5:15 pm #

          I do understand how one can identify with a stranger, however inaccurate that identification might be, and I’ve been upset by the loss of many famous people that meant something to me, but there is a cynical manipulation by the media of the emotions of a proportion of the community who somehow feel bad if they don’t join in the ‘mass hypnosis’.

          In the Diana example, probably a third of the population by at least one account I read a while back (the media have always ignored the other two thirds) were supposedly devastated and they all seemed to think it a great idea to create the monumental park in her honour (on her family grounds, I think) so that all those people who thought they knew her could visit annually or however often to grieve. The numbers tapered off very quickly and it shouldn’t have been a surprise – the depth of feeling couldn’t have been as huge as most of those people first thought, because they DIDN’T KNOW HER PERSONALLY. I was in the UK when she died and coincidentally in London the day of the funeral. There was no other show in town, I can assure you. I was just about in tears, reading the local rag, on behalf of all the other mourners, for someone I really couldn’t give a shit about. It felt like there was something wrong with you if you weren’t miserable.

          Yes, no one can say how far grief should go. Unfortunately the media know that and will push it as far as possible to suit their own agendas. Hughes did deserve a decent farewell – I don’t know if anyone’s disputing that – but I say it’s been definitely over the top. At least it’s for a decent bloke for a change, instead of some unnamed recipients of state funerals over the years.

          Like

  5. paul walter December 9, 2014 at 6:24 pm #

    Did the Mexicans beleive it was photos that caused the damage to the soul, or only when Mrs Chook took them?

    I beleive it is possible to feel for a stranger, if it is spontaneous.

    The Telegraph is a monstrous conception that panders to a certain less bright “captive” mindset and reveals the pathologies of those responsible. The portion of the public involved and the industry are unhealthily symbiotic.

    Seriously. True Hieronymous Bosch.

    Like

    • Jennifer Wilson December 9, 2014 at 7:01 pm #

      No, it wasn’t cos of Mrs Chook, I hope she doesn’t read that comment LOL

      Like

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