Why Amy Winehouse matters

Writing the singer off as another celebrity junkie ignores the bigger issue: The failure of the War on Drugs

Topics: Drugs, Celebrity, Amy Winehouse,

Why Amy Winehouse matters

As the news filtered across the social media sphere about the death of singer Amy Winehouse, I found myself strangely saddened by this loss. After all, wasn’t this just another celebrity whose life had run amok in a very predictable fashion? But aside from the odd (and perhaps intentional?) fact that she died in her 27th year like so many other famous rock stars of the “27 Club” (including Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Brian Jones), something about Amy’s tragic exodus from life struck me in a distinctive way.

Even without knowing the exact cause of death, there really is very little doubt as to what ended the life of the diva most famous for refusing to go to rehab. I’m sure my first impression of “Well I saw that one coming” upon hearing the news was hardly unique.

Winehouse had attended rehab on at least three occasions even though her bluesy, instant hit “Rehab” emphatically stated, “No, no, no.” Multiple incidences of staggering intoxication during performances and well-publicized events of drug-induced insanity made it clear this woman was having serious trouble with substances.

What really struck me about this death, following so closely on a horrific scene of mass slaughter in Norway, was how many people opined that we should ignore Winehouse and focus instead on “real” world events: Norway, Libya, Afghanistan, Somalia and our own tens of thousands who die from lack of healthcare at home. After all, what’s the death of yet another junkie celebrity when compared to these horrors?

The answer is, of course, there is no comparison. While every needless death is tragic, we can still manage to look at all of these terrible happenings in their own light and realize that acknowledging one does not diminish any of the others. In the case of Winehouse, aside from the fact that we all suffer in an important way when an amazing talent is taken so early, my hope is that her death will help us recognize how the “war on drugs” has left far more casualties than successes.

Since drug abuse in the U.S. alone is purported to cause 19,000 deaths a year, it is clear that this is not a problem we should be ignoring. By outlawing these substances, we have only succeeded in turning huge portions of the population into criminals. Over a million people are incarcerated for drugs in this country every year — the vast majority of whom are people of color.



All the while it’s obvious that the criminalization of drugs does practically nothing to stem the negative outcomes addiction brings. It certainly didn’t keep Winehouse away despite her own run-ins with the law. Instead, black market drug money floods into cartels, which have murdered tens of thousands and laid waste to countries across the globe, from Mexico to Afghanistan. As we learned the hard way during the disastrous period of the 18th Amendment in this country, prohibition not only doesn’t work, it fosters a criminal underclass of sociopaths who prey on the weak while reaping obscene profits.

As Winehouse was also an alcoholic, it’s important to note the role of alcohol too. Abuse of booze is reported to claim nearly 35,000 U.S. lives annually with an additional 40,000 killed in car crashes alone. The costs to productivity, healthcare and society are enormous.

One might ask why I’d advocate for legalizing drugs when we have such horrendous results with our perfectly legal alcohol, so I’ll explain the difference.

First of all, alcohol is advertised freely and constantly. The alcohol industry spends over a billion dollars a year on getting the message out to use its products. Per the site U.S.NoDrugs.com:

Each year the typical young person in the United States is inundated with more than 1,000 commercials for beer and wine coolers in addition to several thousand fictional drinking incidents on television

Obviously this depiction of liquor as safe, fun and sexy has an enormous effect on how much the substance is used and abused, much as the unfettered advertising of cigarettes encouraged smoking back in the day. It’s time for public perceptions to change concerning alcohol and its potential for abuse. The best way is for advertising to be curtailed and education about the consequences of misuse stepped up.

It’s also important to point out that no one is advocating that recreational drugs be advertised. Responsible legalization efforts are clear in their message that drugs should be legal but also taxed and regulated, preferably available in pharmacy-type settings with advertising of any kind forbidden. This makes sense.

The argument that a legal source of drugs will make procurement easier is simply false. I have yet to meet a single drug user who had any trouble whatsoever obtaining his or her product. It’s out there and readily available. The sad fact is that along with the immense violence engendered by the trade, users also suffer great harm from unregulated products that vary widely in potency and are often laced with dangerous substances.

Most important, we must ramp up our education and rehabilitation networks to have any kind of success in curbing this incredible waste of human lives. If we took the costs we plow into the drug war and directed even a small fraction of it into prevention and treatment, we’d not only save thousands of lives, we’d even help our deficit situation. One estimate is that legalizing drugs could inject $76.8 billion a year into the U.S. economy, with $44.1 billion from law enforcement savings, and at least $32.7 billion in tax revenue. This doesn’t even take into account the savings in healthcare costs and productivity from drug-related disease and disability. Ten years after Portugal decriminalized drugs, the nation, which once had one of the worst records for drug abuse in Europe, cut usage in half — and saw a huge drop in drug-related crimes. One can only hope that the rest of the world will finally wake up and take notice.

Amy Winehouse obviously was a tortured soul who repeatedly failed in her attempts to get clean. It’s a sad fact that even under the best of circumstances not everyone survives their drug and alcohol addiction. She also had an amazing talent that we don’t see every day, which makes her death a great loss for the arts. The skinny white chick with the amazing gutsy voice moved thousands, and she is credited with helping launch other unusually creative women artists such as Lady Gaga into the realm of musical success. At the same time, her insane behavior while under the influence both riveted and repelled. But in the end she simply became yet another poster child for just how devastating an unchecked spiral into addiction can be. Perhaps we can take note of this and move toward changes that can save lives and relieve suffering for millions.

While watching this informal and soulful recording of her singing “Valerie” I was moved by an alternative picture of Amy. Here, instead of the defiant and belligerent rock star, we see a vulnerable and even fragile human being who sadly got caught up in a disease that was simply a lot bigger than she was.

So rest in peace, Amy Winehouse. Your battle with your demons is at an end and all we’re left with is the music.

But oh what music it is.

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>