In addition to whatever qualms you may share with Kristen Bell regarding the needless depiction of celebrities’ children in paparazzi photos bought by and published in tabloid publications, The Daily Telegraph’s deftly-worded headline announcing the death of acclaimed ‘junkie actor dad’ Philip Seymour Hoffman is a tasteless, grossly insensitive misstep for any other number of reasons.
The first being the apparent demonisation of Hoffman – who died this morning of an apparent heroin overdose – for dying as the result of a disease with which he battled on and off for decades since his early twenties. The flippant use of the pejorative ‘junkie’ in the artless turn of phrase ‘junkie actor dad’ does nothing to aid the Telegraph’s substantial readership in the understanding that addiction is very much a real disease – one that no one chooses to succumb to, and one that doesn’t warrant ridicule or derision. ‘Junkie actor dad’ also fails to encompass both the breadth of Hoffman’s accomplishments as an actor, as well the fundamental inclusion of his name, which you’d think is a given when reporting on a public figure’s death. In distilling the story down to those three tactless words, the story becomes more about the spectacle surrounding his death. When it’s accompanied by a photograph of his children, it’s the definition of exploitative, senseless click bait.
Hoffman’s children – who are evidently grieving their immeasurable loss – have also not made their grief public, presumably because they’re exactly that – children between the ages of six and eleven. Instead their mother, Mimi O’Donnell, issued a statement on behalf of the family this morning, reading: “We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Phil and appreciate the outpouring of love and support we have received from everyone.” The statement continues:
“This is a tragic and sudden loss and we ask that you respect our privacy during this time of grieving.” Directly flouting this request for privacy is the Telegraph’s photograph and lead, which reads: “Philip Seymour Hoffman always kept his three children out of the spotlight but…” ‘But fuck that now’, seems to the general sentiment entailed.
The authenticity of the screenshot has since been verified on Twitter – as far as such things can be – and circulated by a number of journalists from both The Guardian and The ABC. At the time of writing, the caption had been amended to say “Revealed: Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last hours.” As if any one could ever truly know the events leading up to that moment.
In a day that at first showed such promise that rock bottom reportage of this ilk might be on the decline given that Today Tonight has been axed from airwaves across the eastern seaboard, it’s reassuring to know that the Telegraph remains to offer in pithy, disparaging epithets an indication of how not to address the loss of a man who, like it or not, meant a great deal many things to many people – least of all his three children.
If you need assistance or support with narcotic abuse, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Quit Now on 13 78 48. For further contact information, see the Australian Drug Foundation, talk to a medical practitioner or someone you trust.
Screenshot via Twitter