Huffpost Media
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Jon Chattman Headshot

Dead is a Four-Letter Word

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

Maybe it's me but I hate when news outlets break stories of celebrity deaths by simply coming up with a headline of the person's name followed by the word "dead" in all caps. I don't know if it's intended to be disrespectful, printed simply for effect or shock value, but it certainly feels that way. When the late great actor Patrick Swayze passed away earlier this week, it hit me like a ton of bricks because the headlines were so blunt. I grew up on the actor's films (the good, the bad, and the "Wong Foo"), and his death had an impact on me. I didn't need to be hit over the head with the headlines. Only in the follow-up stories did we get a bit of warming up -- you know, like mentioning his brave battle with cancer.

This is nothing new. These headlines have been around long before trash like TMZ, but somehow it resonates more now since we're living in a paparazzi-fueled/ pop-hungry world. I recall when Paul Newman died, his image was on the front of the paper with the cold hard type "Paul Newman Dead." Not cool for such a legend. Would "Paul Newman, Legendary Actor and Humanitarian, Passes Away" be too much? I don't think so. People Magazine always plays it classy -- with carefully thought out headlines that honor those who died. True, it's a magazine and they may be arguably working with more of a lead time but it doesn't take much to show some class by changing a word or two.

Maybe I'm way off base here. Perhaps this is a complete waste of time to write this, and for you to read this, but it just hit me when the Ghost and Dirty Dancing star passed away. I posted a similar rant on Facebook and got some interesting feedback and had some supporters -- and some caught in the middle. One person was on the opposite end of the fence, noting he disagreed wholeheartedly, and explained the whole reason the word dead sounds "cold" is because of "society's fear of death." He has a point no doubt. Maybe I'm uber sensitive. One friend of mine also weighed in, noting phrasing is irrelevant in this age of Facebook and Twitter where your favorite celebrity's death is remembered Ad nauseam by your "friends"' via obit tweets and status messages.

None of this matters. Swayze's death has already been bumped by news stories in favor of the leaked Obama "jackass" reference over Kanye West's Taylor Swift sideshow. It's sad, but it's reality and it will continue to be. On a related note, can someone get me a cow, and brand Kanye on one side, and Michael Jackson on the other...then get correspondent Billy Bush to milk said cow? Danke.