he National Enquirer is courting controversy for running what it touts as "the last photo" of the late singer Whitney Houston: A picture of the star's open casket at her wake. The decision to publish the private image is "disgusting and reprehensible," critics say, especially because the tabloid typically lines supermarket shelves in plain view of children. Meanwhile, the Enquirer's publisher has defended the photo as "beautiful," and 21 percent of those surveyed in a Fox News poll said they saw "absolutely nothing wrong" with the image. Did the Enquirer go too far?
It's unacceptable: "Images are news," says Dodai Stewart at Jezebel. That case was rightfully made when papers ran photos of Moammar Gadhafi's bloodied corpse. But a line exists, and the National Enquirer crossed it. We can assume this "invasive" photo was taken by someone close to the singer who immorally accepted a large payment to leak the pic. And making matters worse, this "disturbing" image runs alongside classless headlines about "Courtney from The Bachelor's 'pregnancy drama'" and Ashton Kutcher's "cougar hunting." Yuck. Whitney deserves better.
"This casket photo of Whitney Houston's dead body is now on newsstands everywhere"
Sadly, this is par for the course: Coverage of Houston's death has been one big "exercise in sensationalism," says Brent Lang at The Wrap. The National Enquirer front page is "on par with the photos of Houston's last meal and the bathtub she died in that TMZ ran immediately after her Feb. 11 death." And the Enquirer's "ghoulish glimpse at Whitney's wake" is just the tip of the iceberg. The "tawdry" article crassly reports the cost of the jewelry she was wearing and offers a red-carpet-like analysis of her outfit.
"Whitney Houston open casket photo graces National Enquirer cover"
Americans have, historically, sought out such images: National Enquirer isn't Reader's Digest, says Roy Greenslade at the U.K.'s Guardian. In 1977, the paper's front page featured a photo of Elvis Presley's open casket just days after his death. The nation was hardly scandalized: It became the paper's best-selling issue ever. Even more recently, photos of Michael Jackson's lifeless body were plastered all over the news during the trial of his doctor, Conrad Murray. This time around, the Enquirer will once again "sell many, many extra copies. That's life... and death."
"National Enquirer runs cover picture of Whitney Houston in a coffin"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The world's dumbest idea: Taxing solar energy
- Why atheism doesn't have the upper hand over religion
- Why would a young person today be religious?
- He said he was leaving. She ignored him.
- 31 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Which states get screwed worst by the Electoral College?
- Why Good Friday is so important to Christians
- 10 things you need to know today: April 18, 2014
- Why we can't stop procrastinating, according to science
- Israel and Russia are getting along. Have the neocons noticed?
Subscribe to the Week