Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Researchers To Brandon Flowers: You Have Two Years Left To Live
This - a study measuring the economic benefits of celebrity suicide with specific focus on Kurt Cobain - is apparently very enlightening. Some of the highlights, as reported by The Guardian...

The three professors walk us through the debits and credits of Kurt Cobain's suicide. Mostly, they see credits: increased sales of his music and merchandise; increased "iconic value" of products fans had already purchased; and a variety of emotional benefits that could theoretically be given a financial value. The musicians associated with Kurt Cobain, especially his wife, Courtney Love and her band, Hole, also presumably benefit from an increase in attention and perceived value.

Professor Lester and his colleagues point out further, subtle benefits to Kurt Cobain's suicide. Cobain died at 27, early in a human lifespan, but perhaps fairly late in a pop singer's expected career. "The potential of his future artistic productivity may be much less than was generated by his suicide," they write. "Indeed, it is possible that future mediocre works might have blighted a legacy, leading to negative reappraisals and lower sales of his peak-period work."

Of suicide in general - and specifically of any me-too suicides that Cobain's death may have inspired - the professors describe a higher sort of economic benefit to society. There is, they write, a "selective elimination of those who are unable to cope adequately with the requirements of the environment in which they are trying to survive."

See? Everyone's a winner. So the next time your buddy who's a big Elliott Smith fan starts prattling on about how senseless the singer/songwriter's self-inflicted demise was, just show him this. Because it's impossible to argue with economics. Or at least equally senseless to try.

The supplemental question that needs to be asked is this: would the world be better off if every pop star of a certain calibre killed him or herself at or near the peak of his or her glory?

For instance, would the world be a better place if Jay-Z had killed himself after The Blueprint, Britney Spears after I'm A Slave 4 U, the Barenaked Ladies after Gordon? Is this something we should attempt to legislate? And, if so, should we employ roving death squads or attempt to maximize the financial windfall by staging public hangings and selling the TV rights? Perhaps MTV could launch a separate channel - MTV17 - devoted entirely to this?

And could this - should this - be extended to other fields? For instance, should Mike Tyson have killed himself after knocking out Michael Spinks? Should Bill Clinton have killed himself moments after winning re-election over Bob Dole? Should George W. Bush have offed himself after returning home from a particularly raging kegger in college?

Obviously these are scenarios we have to consider. The world teeters in a very precarious position right now. And it's time for out-of-the-box thinking and ideas. Let this be the start of a very important national - nay, global - dialogue.

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