Thoughts in the wake of the death of Caroline Flack
I’m not someone who closely follows the news, or Celebrity culture, but yesterday I was told the news about Caroline Flack.
The successful British TV Presenter had been found dead in her London home. A few hours after the news broke her lawyer confirmed the cause of death was suicide.
Caroline Flack first became a household name ten years ago, as one of the Presenters of The X Factor and has been a mainstay on ITV shows since then. She had a very enviable career, working on the most viewed shows in UK television. Despite being repeatedly cast, and not doing anything particularly controversial, Caroline was always someone the media liked to talk about. This began fairly early on in her career when, at 31, she was romantically linked to a, then 17 year old, Harry Styles. Little creepy, can’t personally see myself dating someone that young, but we live in a world where Hugh Hefner and Leo DiCaprio exist with much more extreme and glamorised age gaps.
The specifics of that dalliance were never really known but either way it set the tone for much of what would follow in Caroline’s career. There was a vulnerability to her ‘normal’ I think, that the media really took under their wicked wing. Drawing her as both glamorous and inspirational, and a crazed, permanently heartbroken, prowess.
Hosting Love Island saw this exaggerated to a level beyond. A show that, since its beginnings in 2015, has seen two former contestants commit suicide. It’s not far off averaging one suicide a season. That’s pretty extreme. While defenders of the show will say that it’s a coincidence, that each of these individuals have other things going on in their lives, that’s true of all of us. We all have things going on in our lives that contribute to our mental state. What matters and where Love Island comes in, is as a catalyst or tipping point. Putting people in a situation where they see the world and their situations as hopeless and future happiness as an impossibility.
In the case of Caroline, and I use her first name deliberately because she is a human being with a given name, she was recently dropped from the show after headlines broke that she was under trial for attacking her boyfriend. It did sound pretty bad. Apparently she woke him up in the night by smashing a lamp over him and the police were called to diffuse the scene.
When I heard this, my instant reaction was, oh god is she OK? Because that is a slightly unhinged thing to do. To lash out physically to someone like that, someone that you’re in a relationship with, is a serious sign that there’s a mania going on in your head. I felt some sense last year of just how dangerous a relationship can be when it starts to go wrong, because I felt that emotional shift in myself where you start to lose your rationality. Emotions become warped and dominant. A look at the lives of Nina Simone, Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse can show you the role a turbulent relationship can have on your emotional state and ability to heal.
Of course, that wasn’t what most people were saying.
“She’s crazy”. “Awful”. “Lost the plot.” “A savage.”
We seem to forget, when it comes to people in the spotlight, that they made the same contract we all did with life. That we will make mistakes. That we won’t always know how to get ourselves out of a situation. And when you see someone in that position, why has it become OK to throw dirt on them, rather than shield them. There’s an arrogance that comes with trolling in any form. A sense of superiority that you have a right to judge someone and the world will really become a better place when we stop that. When we look at someone in the eyes and ask not, “what the fuck was that about?”, but, “are you OK?”.
The old, wise guys from history, who’s books I like to read, often focus on integrity. On having principles and sticking to them. One such wise guy was Abraham Lincoln, once quoted as saying:
“I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.”
While I wish we lived in a world where people didn’t need an extreme scenario to make change, we don’t. So then can we at least, when an extreme scenario happens, like the destruction of someone who was once a perfectly happy individual, vow to make change.
I think we often see change as starting with government, the media, or ‘people of influence’, but we are all people of influence. Change starts with us. It starts with making the decision not to judge someone based on one event. To treat people with kindness and consideration. To check in when we find ourselves not liking someone, and perhaps choosing respectful indifference over active dislike. I’m so bored of hearing people bitch and troll and just generally say dismissive things about individuals they really do not know. Isn’t it time we stopped?