Since Jade Goody died, there have been an abundance of comparisons between her and the late Diana, Princess of Wales. While there are obvious similarities (they were women, both had two sons, both were well-known, both are now dead) the differences outweigh them.
When Jade Goody died on Mother's Day few people were shocked by it. Her death at the age of 27 was inevitable. On a daily basis the media was on death watch, milking the melodrama of it all: Jade's last wishes, her hope to live until Mother's Day, her last visit with her sons, and pictures of her on a stretcher being taken to the hospital. Comments in articles about these updates ranged from the sympathetic to the cynical. Tired of hearing about Jade, some took an above it all approach, yet it didn't stop them from reading about it.
After Jade died any furor surrounding her death was a product of her own savvy ingenuity. Tragedy is interesting as long as it isn't in our own lives. The minute details appealed to the macabre in us; like Jade being buried in her wedding dress still wearing her wedding ring, photos of her beloved son's at her side, how she was hallucinating and struggling for breath at the end. Did we really need to know that?
In Diana's case her 1997 death was incredibly shocking. There was no death watch. To have someone so well-known suddenly taken in such a violent manner was not part of the invented fairy-tale. Her death was unexpected and caused a outpouring of grief that cynical people are still trying to understand 12 years later. Diana could not have predicted this let alone planned for it.
Unlike the aristocratic Diana, Jade couldn't rely on her status or ancestry to carry her through life. Instead Jade took control of her destiny. And when her 15 minutes of fame should have been up she parlayed it into a perfume line, an exercise video, books, interviews, and lucrative wedding photos. All in the space of 7 years. In her 16 years in the spotlight, Diana never used her fame to sell products; luckily she had people to do that after she'd died.
Had Diana lived, she probably would have visited a rehabilitation/counselling centre for people like Jade (with two drug addicted parents and a grim poverty-stricken childhood) to turn their lives around. An appearance, while well meant, would have only underlined the difference. Diana's life might have been something people could only dream about, but it was never on the same level.
And no flower covered funeral cortege through town, lined with the curious and the genuinely concerned changes that.
© Marilyn Braun 2009
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