How 'The Bachelor,' 'Glee,' and 'Rizzoli & Isles' All Mis-Handled A Cast Member's Death
The Bachelor has never been my favorite show, but usually I let people watch it (or even hate-watch it) without comment. I follow it covertly, knowing the general trajectory without truly caring or watching. However, when I saw The Bachelor's odious tribute to former contestant Gia Allemand, my years of quietly ignoring from the sidelines ended. I now have feelings, and I assume many of you do, as well.
Unfortunately, this year has not been a great one for TV celebrity deaths, or coverage of those deaths. Rizzoli & Isles's Lee Thompson Young also committed suicide. Glee's Cory Montieth and That 70's Show's Lisa Robin Kelly died of drug-related complications. And, because of the Internet, some terrible coverage was put out there. Some sites announced the deaths with exclamation points, acting as if they were on par with the latest sex tape scandal. And some wildly speculated, then sensationalized the death reports. We all stayed glued to Twitter after the initial reports, making us active participants in the gluttonous consumption of bereaved celebrity tweets. All of this disgusts me.
It is true that Rizzoli & Isles and Glee attempted tribute episodes, albeit from different angles. Glee's tribute special, while touching, forced the actors to perform while grieving, and made Lea Michele's sadness a television spectacle. While the director was proud that he shot all of her scenes in one take, I wondered if she wanted to cry on camera, or if she just wanted to hang out at Kate Hudson's house, as she did to avoid media attention.
Since I can never truly know how much of that special came from the actors, and how much was a planned media stunt, and neither can you, maybe that PSA at the end of that Glee episode helped some people, but I doubt very many people paid attention to those earnest 30 seconds. If FOX really wanted to help people like Cory, the entire episode would have been dedicated to a charity like Chrysalis, which Lea Michele tweeted at to encourage donations in Cory's honor, or an addiction program that had helped Cory stay clean. But no, we got 30 seconds of addiction discussion in a sea of morbid sensationalism.
Rizzoli & Isles went the opposite direction after the death of Lee Thompson Young, but that didn't make their tribute attempt any more sincere. At then end of their show, they put up a simple black slide that said "In loving memory of Lee Thompson Young, 1984 – 2013," followed by a few silent clips of Lee on the show. That was it. No link to a suicide prevention hotline, no PSA supporting a mental health charity. What was 30 seconds long in Glee had been compressed to 10.
After these two tribute episodes, I should have know that The Bachelor would make theirs more heinous, and less helpful, by a large margin. They didn't make Gia's passing a special a priority, they made it a spectacle, and teased it throughout the episode as a "tribute to one of its brightest stars."
The special itself featured clips of Gia along with testimonials from... other Bachelor contestants. Her mom got a short speech at the end, friends, neighbors, and her boyfriend, NBA player Ryan Anderson, were all omitted, either by choice or by some decision to keep this memorial with "The Bachelor family." Also, they used some photos from Gia's life, but made The Bachelor seem to be her sole reason for existence, and ended on a quote about her legacy on the show, making it seem like her last words. Here is a hint to producer of reality television: even though people volunteer for your shows, they might not want them to become their entire legacy.
Also, where was the information about suicide prevention, the helpful PSA at the end? There was an odd allusion to visiting ABC's site for more information, but as far as I can tell, they don't have any suicide hotlines featured on their homepage yet. So, as much as the love-filled Bachelor Family cares about Gia and how she died, they don't give a rose about people going through similar struggles. How incredibly caring of them, to leave out any helpful information for future victims of suicide out there.
Although I must say that the timing of this special is at least slightly better than its message, since it was released four months after her death (a much longer wait than the tributes on Glee or Rizzoli & Isles), I can't say much else. In a year when the media cared more about splashy suicide headlines than getting help for the thousands of people living with addiction, I also say I'm not surprised. I hope 2014 gets better.