Frontlines: The Cult of Celebrity

With the happy, clappy Von Trapp family now resurrected in a new London theatre production, the Sound of Money…er, Music will tell us how life should really be lived.
OK, everyone knows it’s a fantasy but it still works on a subliminal level. Much of the media and entertainment industry sells dreams, or nightmares depending on your point of view, on what should be our real inheritance, the lives we should all be leading.

During the Cold War, in the event of the ultimate deterrent not deterring, the BBC had plans to broadcast the Sound of Music to the survivors of the holocaust, just to brighten things up a bit and keep whatever would be left of the masses indoors. Bugger that, I’d have taken my chances on a brisk nuclear winter walk.

The true Von Trapp family, of course, were not as happy and wholesome as the musical portrays. Maria came from an abusive, dysfunctional family who married Von Trapp out of love for the children rather than him. After his death in 1947 the eldest daughter got stage fright, which developed into a mental illness and was treated with ECT. Another daughter was kept prisoner in her room after her stepmother disapproved of her marriage plans.

People who suffer with depression often have a distorted image of the world around them. Many feel as if life has passed them by while all around them people are living out Sound of Music lives. We can all feel like this at times. The cult of celebrity feeds into a culture of discontent. We choke on a media diet filled with images of  impossible lifestyles. Even ads for painkillers give us no room to feel mean and nasty for a while, phone in sick and go back to bed. No, no, take this tablet, hold that fluffy smile and carry on with your blissful working life.

When a group of US psychologists met up with the Dalai Lama he asked what difficulties were most common for western Buddhist students. They replied self-hatred.

When the Buddha said life was suffering he wasn’t being a miserable party pooper. Acknowledgement of the melancholy we all carry is the first step towards coping with life as it is.

At least then you won’t be waiting for the spectre of Maria sneaking up behind you, squawking “The hills are alive…”

Nigel Leaney manages a mental health residential service

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