I know quite a bit about celebrity. I dont know how to write about Caroline Flack. I dont mean the bare facts that I know I am supposed to include as background: That she took her own life while awaiting trial following an allegation that she assaulted her boyfriend.
Rather, I dont want to say anything that might heap further anguish upon her already devastated friends or family. I dont want to arrogantly wade into the intensely sensitive subjects of suicide or partner violence when I am not trained in how best to communicate these issues.
People, understandably, are drawing parallels with Mike Thalassitis, and Amy Winehouse, and even Meghan Markle. They are asking whose fault this is and where to direct their shock and anger. I find myself recoiling, worried that I might be reacting too quickly. Or speaking over someone whose voice is no longer here. I really, really do not want to exacerbate the harm.
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So, as national discourse turned to suicide, I turned to the Samaritans for guidance. I read their instructions for responsible reporting on suicide. They advise to avoid over-simplification, melodramatic depictions, speculation or unsubstantiated links between separate incidents.
As I was reading, it struck me that this offers a pretty accurate summary of celebrity watching in general. As we follow the lives of celebrities, what are we doing if not drawing our own unsubstantiated links between separate incidents in their lives to create an overarching story, filling in the blanks, constructing a personality we imagine ourselves to know? Speculation is a national pastime. Melodrama is the default timbre.
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1/10 Emma Watson
During a 2011 Interview with Vogue, actor Emma Watson opened about her failures. ‘I dont want the fear of failure to stop me from doing what I really care about,’ she told the publication.
2/10 Michael Jordan
In a 2006 Nike commercial titled ‘Failure’, basketball star Michael Jordan shared his low moments during his sporting career. ‘I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career,’ the sportsman said in the clip. ‘I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.’
3/10 Oprah Winfrey
TV presenter and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey talked about failure in her 2013 Harvard Commencement address. ‘There is no such thing as failure,’ she told the audience. ‘Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.’
4/10 Taylor Swift
Singer Taylor Swift spoke to her audiences during her 2013-14 ‘Red Tour’ about how to have the confidence to keep fighting for succcess. ‘Fearless is getting back up and fighting for what you want over and over again even though every time youve tried before youve lost.’ she told her fans.
5/10 Malala Yousafzai
Womens education activist Malala Yousafzai spoke about the importance of standing up for what you believe in during an ABC interview in 2013. The 22-year-old said: ‘I think life is dangerous. Some people get afraid of it. Some people dont go forward. But some people, if they want to achieve their goal, they have to go, they have to move.’
6/10 Beyoncé
In Self-titled: Part 2. Imperfection, a mini-documentary posted by the singer on YouTube in 2013, Beyoncé opened up about the importance of failing in life. ‘The reality is, sometimes you lose,’ she said. ‘And youre never too good to lose, youre never too big to lose, youre never too smart to lose, it happens. And it happens when it needs to happen. And you have to embrace those things.’
7/10 J.K. Rowling
In a 2008 Harvard Commencement address about the benefits of failure and the importance of imagination, author J.K Rowling stated: ‘It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all in which case, you fail by default. Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations.’
8/10 Hillary Clinton
Ending her 2008 campaign for US President, former Senator and Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton reflected on her journey. ‘Always aim high, work hard, and care deeply about what you believe in,’ she said. ‘And, when you stumble, keep faith. And, when youre knocked down, get right back up and never listen to anyone who says you cant or shouldnt go on.’
9/10 Maya Angelou
The late American poet is widely believed to have once stated: ‘Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.’
10/10 Sandra Bullock
Actor Sandra Bullock shared her reflections on her fears in an interview with the Express in 2013. ‘I was afraid of being a failure, of not having the best time or of being chicken,’ she told the publication. ‘But every year I get older I think, “what was I fearing last year?” you forget. And then you move on.’
1/10 Emma Watson
During a 2011 Interview with Vogue, actor Emma Watson opened about her failures. ‘I dont want the fear of failure to stop me from doing what I really care about,’ she told the publication.
2/10 Michael Jordan
In a 2006 Nike commercial titled ‘Failure’, basketball star Michael Jordan shared his low moments during his sporting career. ‘I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career,’ the sportsman said in the clip. ‘I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.’
3/10 Oprah Winfrey
TV presenter and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey talked about failure in her 2013 Harvard Commencement address. ‘There is no such thing as failure,’ she told the audience. ‘Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.’
4/10 Taylor Swift
Singer Taylor Swift spoke to her audiences during her 2013-14 ‘Red Tour’ about how to have the confidence to keep fighting for succcess. ‘Fearless is getting back up and fighting for what you want over and over again even though every time youve tried before youve lost.’ she told her fans.
5/10 Malala Yousafzai
Womens education activist Malala Yousafzai spoke about the importance of standing up for what you believe in during an ABC interview in 2013. The 22-year-old said: ‘I think life is dangerous. Some people get afraid of it. Some people dont go forward. But some people, if they want to achieve their goal, they have to go, they have to move.’
6/10 Beyoncé
In Self-titled: Part 2. Imperfection, a mini-documentary posted by the singer on YouTube in 2013, Beyoncé opened up about the importance of failing in life. ‘The reality is, sometimes you lose,’ she said. ‘And youre never too good to lose, youre never too big to lose, youre never too smart to lose, it happens. And it happens when it needs to happen. And you have to embrace those things.’
7/10 J.K. Rowling
In a 2008 Harvard Commencement address about the benefits of failure and the importance of imagination, author J.K Rowling stated: ‘It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all in which case, you fail by default. Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations.’
8/10 Hillary Clinton
Ending her 2008 campaign for US President, former Senator and Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton reflected on her journey. ‘Always aim high, work hard, and care deeply about what you believe in,’ she said. ‘And, when you stumble, keep faith. And, when youre knocked down, get right back up and never listen to anyone who says you cant or shouldnt go on.’
9/10 Maya Angelou
The late American poet is widely believed to have once stated: ‘Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.’
10/10 Sandra Bullock
Actor Sandra Bullock shared her reflections on her fears in an interview with the Express in 2013. ‘I was afraid of being a failure, of not having the best time or of being chicken,’ she told the publication. ‘But every year I get older I think, “what was I fearing last year?” you forget. And then you move on.’
As we consume the lives of others, we construct them. In the process, we often default to lazy shorthand or comfortingly familiar tropes. We dont necessarily mean to or know we are doing it they are part of our vocabulary and syntax for understanding the world. This is how we end up with stock narratives recirculating around the lives of our favourite stars: the train wreck, for example, the cougar, or the femme fatale. Over-simplification of the causes of suicide is harmful. Over-simplification of peoples lives and the meaning we attribute to them can be, too.
Feminist philosopher Efrat Tseëlon coined the term impossible space to describe the irreconcilable demands placed upon women, and the way they use stock narratives from ancient myth and religion which find a woman to be somehow simultaneously not enough and too much. Unable or unwilling to confront the complexity and humanity of the whole woman, we reduce her to a set of easily digestible meanings we impose upon her.
When someone dies, we assume it must be because of one of the limited number of details we know about their lives.
Was it the press scrutiny, we ask, or the social media backlash? The damaged reputation or the relationship breakdown? Journalists have pointed to the lack of support provided by Flacks employer, ITV.  Her management point to the callous prosecutors in a punitive show trial.
If we heed the Samaritans expertise, none of these offer us a way to understand what has happened. Rather, it will have been a complex web of interrelated causes. They would rather we focus on common risk factors in those around us, who we can help: drugs, alcohol, mental health issues and deprivation.
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Lets treat people as if the stakes are high and the consequences can be dire.
As we leap to blame, to manage the shock, to wrench this story into something we know how to digest, beware over-simplification. And as we consume and construct stories about the living, beware over-simplification.
If suicide is too complex and interrelated for simple narration, thats because life is and people are impossibly complex, too.
Dr Hannah Yelin is a senior lecturer in media and culture at Oxford Brookes University