The death, at age 44, of former Alice in Chains bassist Mike Starr brings into question the real value of reality television shows like Celebrity Rehab and Sober House with Dr. Drew Pinsky. Should we be gawking at the medicated and the mentally ill for pleasure and profit?
We don’t yet know precisely what killed Mike Starr — but what we do know is that he struggled for years with a massive addiction to drugs — and as hard as Dr. Drew and Celebrity Rehab tried to make us root for Mike against his addiction, that effort failed in total.
When we watched Mike in rehab television, he was a nasty and crude man to everyone around him, and he was especially vengeful against staff member Jennifer Gimenez on Sober House, the odd aftercare show for celebrities who graduate from the rehab program and then cho0se clean living in a structured environment — but still in the public eye.
It was clear Mike was a hopeless case from start to end. He craved drugs more than he loved his life — and that forces us wonder what sort of role Celebrity Rehab is supposed to play in the lives of the viewing audience? Are we supposed to laugh at the spectacle of these misfits, or are we to feel supportive of hopeless causes? Are we expected to live in Pity and Terror?
I find Celebrity Rehab and Sober House to be depressive and memeingless. The toxic relationships are difficult to tender and impossible to abide. Should rehab and therapy and healing be done in private and away from the public square or shown weekly on VH1? I can’t imagine anyone who is addicted ever wanting to attend a rehab program after watching those Pinsky train wreck soap operas.
I am most disappointed in Drew Pinsky, who appears to be a good man, but his direct involvement in the exploitation of celebrity addiction is stunning because he is trained to know better. Drew Pinsky must know those people need privacy and ongoing, deep, therapy away from the very lights and microphones that likely helped push them down the path to their addiction in the first place.
Instead of facilitating addicted celebrities with the cover of a respected privacy, I believe Dr. Drew is doing them full, foul, harm for the world to see, and he is peddling tickets to the slaughterhouse so we can vicariously watch a melting bloodbath as many of those celebrities lose their minds, and sometimes — like Mike Starr — their lives.