Beyond the gloss

Just as there is a kind of stock market of births and baptisms, where the value of stock is judged by the time television channels devote to it, so there is a market regarding the value of those who die. Those who were flashy in life are entitled to plenty of television time. Those who were more opaque, or whose image was matt, or who were forgotten are crammed into the last few minutes of news bulletins. If we were to judge by the frivolous way in which some television channels (though not all) dealt with the death of Marlon Brando, we would come to the conclusion that he was a bright young thing that, as time passed, lost his sheen, until he landed up an old, fat, poor, sick, indebted failure. But his decline should not diminish our respect for him, even if this respect has no recipient because the artist no longer has any interest in our eulogies and sensitivities. What does it matter if Marlon Brando’s personal life were an example of what to avoid? In any case, we often discover how misleading our image is of a couple that looks very much in love, of the good household head, of the flawless family’s happiness presented by lifestyle TV shows. Often, the less significant a big name’s work, the greater his impact on television (and the higher his fee). In «The Godfather,» Brando dies playing with his grandchild in a garden, an almost idyllic scene untouched by the chill of death. In real life, his death was not photogenic, nor could it be exploited by television. It had only the grandeur and sorrow of the last step on the long ladder of a willing exit. But we will keep seeing his films, over and over. And we will feel no chill. His death will remind us of the great chasm between the «famous» and the «artist» (here the epithet «true» is superfluous). This is a difference the market of our television channels flattens and grinds to powder… But it never ceases to exist.