A high-profile celebrity death always casts a solemn silence and a shadow over sunny Hollywood. For weeks, these incidents turn the eyes of America to the lives of such celebrities. Their triumphs are praised, their troubles are exposed, and the true causes of their deaths are scrutinized endlessly on programs like “E! News” and coverage on CNN.

The media explosion after Whitney Houston’s death on Feb. 11 was no exception. Houston was found dead in the Beverly Hilton Hotel, where she was staying to celebrate the 54th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles the day before the event. Upon the discovery of her passing, a media firestorm instantaneously began. Tweets from celebrities and fans alike began flooding the Twittersphere with the news of the pop diva’s death, and according to TopsyLabs.com, there were “2,481,652 tweets and retweets” in the first hour after her death was announced.

And now, as the initial buzz following Houston’s sudden death — the cause of which has yet to be determined — has faded, we have to wonder about the motives of Warner Bros. in “honoring” the singing legend by re-releasing a famous movie she starred in, “The Bodyguard,” to theaters on March 28 for a limited engagement in more than 400 theaters across the country. The movie will also be re-released on Blu-ray the day before. While media outlets are claiming that the re-release coincides with the 20th anniversary of the film, one caveat appears with this reasoning when looking at the film’s original release date: Nov. 25, 1992, according to IMDb.com. Would it be wrong to suggest that Warner Bros. is daresay capitalizing on the death of the star of the movie to promote their film?

This leads to the question of whether a difference exists between honoring and exploiting. Would Houston be happy to see the success of her film as fans honor her by seeing the movie in theaters and purchasing the new Blu-ray edition? Or would the event be looked upon by Houston as a stunt to exploit her tragic death in order to rake in profits? For a performer who made her living and discovered her joy through us as an audience consuming her work, it’s difficult to know the correct way to honor the diva.

Unfortunately, we’ve come to this crossroads before, following the similarly sudden death of Michael Jackson. After the singer’s unexpected passing on June 25, 2009, the filmed rehearsals from his planned world tour that never was, “This Is It,” were released in theaters on Oct. 28, 2009. The film grossed more than $72 million, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com. But were those profits truly a way to honor Michael Jackson? When I purchased my ticket at an expensive theater to see the rehearsals of a concert that never was, did I pay my respects?

Re-releasing movies to honor someone strays far from the intended effect. We are paying money to appreciate someone’s artistic work, but hopefully, their music and their art is what made them happy, not the dollars we spent to consume it. And maybe in today’s society, spending money is the only way to appreciate art. But wouldn’t Houston be happier if we pulled up a YouTube video of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and danced along with the same confidence she exudes in the music video? Or even if we sought out an old copy of “The Bodyguard” ourselves, not a new modified edition, and cried along as “I Will Always Love You” played in the background?

While there is no correct way to honor a celebrity who has passed on, it seems the best way would be to appreciate Houston’s art for its own sake without handing a corporation a sum of money to pay our respects. Houston’s life was rocked by the fortune and fame she received, but what truly made her a remarkable woman and someone to honor was the work she produced. Hopefully, Houston’s work captivated her as well, and our appreciation for her music and movies will serve as her ideal way to pay respect to her outstanding career.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.