Friday, 25 March 2011

Paying the ultimate price

This week the world lost a true legend, the likes of which we’ll never see again. So as the world unites in grief over their untimely demise, let’s take a moment to consider the toll of living life in the spotlight.

Magazine covers, screaming hordes of loyal fans, and days spent locked in a gilt-edged cage. That’s the bittersweet price of fame for you. Now, all that’s left is an impromptu tribute of flowers, candles and stuffed toys.

Knut, you may be gone too soon, but your contribution to the world of celebrity will never be forgotten. In related news, Liz Taylor also kicked the champagne bucket, but who cares about that when “the world’s most famous polar bear is dead”?

The media loves a good tragedy, especially when it can put a borderline nonsensical spin on things. The death of a four year-old German polar bear being a prime example, as one writer in the Mail speculates that fame might have been responsible for his premature passing.

Waxing lyrical about the ursine urchin’s hunger for audience appreciation, the article describes how Knut suffered from the stresses of an “unreal celebrity-style life” and had a deep-seated “addiction to public adulation”. One of Knut’s keepers, Markus Röbke, has even stated that he often saw Knut cry when Berlin zoo closed for the evening. Early reports that Knut used to tip off photographers prior to leaving his grotto, remain unsubstantiated at this point.

But the life of a celebrity isn’t all lazing by the pool and making the occasional public appearance – there are also the nutjobs and obsessed fans to deal with. Berlin Zoo even received a faxed death threat that read “Knut ist tot! Donnerstag Mittag (Knut is dead! Thursday at noon)”. Thursday came and went without incident, and no-one seemed particularly surprised. Well, it's hard to take anyone seriously who still communicates via fax machine.

During his short life, Knut also had to deal with the public’s obsession with his sex life, as well as the pressures of maintaining a paparazzi-ready appearance at all times. His “weakness for croissants” meant that he was tipping the scales at 130 kilos when he was only two years old. Personally, I don’t think he ever got over seeing his hind flanks featured in Heat’s "Stars with Orange Peel Legs” article.

All the media attention must have weighed heavily on the young bear's off-white shoulders. There were concerns he was feeling the strain when ten live carp were introduced to his moat to eat the algae, only for Knut to bite off their heads and smothered himself in their blood. It was that or try to fashion their fillets into an eye-catching awards gown.

Although the papers were quite happy playing Quincy M.E., zoo authorities made sure that a real autopsy was also scheduled. You know, just in case Knut wasn't killed by the pressure of having to pen another volume of memoirs. Final results are yet to be released, but it's looking likely that he was killed by an "underlying neurological problem".

It's not all bad news though, at least for the papers that were so keen to point the finger at modern celebrity, since they're an integral part of the machinery. This way, they get to throw out their ridiculous accusations and, at the same time, abstain from any culpability in the matter. The disingenuous knuts.

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