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Why do we care about Peaches Geldof?

9th April 2014

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In today’s Metro, two comments sent to the letters page caught my attention. One read: “Why was the death of Peaches Geldof given the front page and two more pages inside (Metro, Tues), while Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney passes away and gets the smallest article?” whilst the other stated that “The BBC talked about Peaches’ death for hours. It was sad and worth mentioning but there was no sense of perspective.”

Whilst the media scrambles to know what went on in the final minutes of Peaches Geldof’s life, alone in her home in Kent on Monday afternoon, a minority are questioning why we care so much, why the death of this once wild but now homely socialite has hit the nation so hard, and why it has been given so much attention in the press.

The death of Peaches Geldof is as mythic as it was unexpected, and of course the comparisons to her mother (Paula Yates, who died of as drug overdose in 2000 when Peaches was 11) were made within minutes of the news breaking. The end of Peaches Geldof’s life was (or at least appeared to be – her death is being treated as “unexplained”, and the post mortem is being carried out today) vastly different from that of her mother. But the youthfulness and tragic symmetry that link both means that comparisons were, and are, inevitable.

We've grown up with Peaches Honeyblossom Geldof and her elaborately named family. She was part of a national rhetoric - of rock star glamour, of lost youth, of excess, of untimely death. What makes her sudden demise all the more tragic is that, in her last couple of years, she had transcended this and begun to carve her own story - one of hope. But now, somehow, she has fallen in the foremost of these narratives.

Because of the pervasive nature of the press we feel that we know the Geldofs intimately, and in a way we do – as well as we know any family, perhaps, who have had their movements traced in minute detail for the last - what? - 30 years. They’re everywhere. For a few years Peaches was vilified in the press as a privileged, nothingness party girl, stumbling around London clubs, and ridiculously (it seemed) being given career opportunities that she didn’t even come close to deserving. Later, she would prove herself eloquent and worthy of the opportunities afforded her. Two of my housemates briefly made acquaintance with her whilst bonding over the accessories section of Oxford Street’s Topshop in 2008. In November, we (and the entire internet) gave a virtual cheer when she successfully took down shameless rent-a-gob Katie Hopkins on This Morning.

She was there, gobby and young and generally full of life, whether people wanted her to be or not. And now she isn’t. This is a difficult thing for the nation to collectively get its head around.

People, of course, are using her death as a moment to air their ill though out views - why are we sad about Peaches Geldof? We didn't know her, and she didn’t do very much! Worse things happen every day - worse things happen in war, in Iran, in Syria, and so on.

Here's the harsh truth: we are numb to war, to disease, to deaths far away, because we expect it. We know that thousands of people are dying in Syria, but the human stories are lost among the enormous rhetoric of conflict. We don't feel as much for the deaths over there because they're diluted by the constant barrage of bad news that we get every day, juxtaposing the horrific with the mundane on our journeys to work, flashing up on our iPhone screens alongside messages detailing our evening plans, present every time we refresh our twitter feeds. We're used to it, desensitised to it, and consequently it's less shocking to us than an apparently healthy and happy 25-year-old that we feel we know dropping dead of unknown causes on a Monday afternoon.

More than anything the story of Peaches Geldof is a human one: a lost daughter, finally finding her own way (after, in her own words, a "rudderless childhood") and then having it unexpectedly snatched away, when she had managed to build stability in her two babies and husband and Kent home.

Now, her sons will grow up precisely as she didn’t want them to – without a mother. At the heart of the media shock/inevitable questioning that has surrounded her death, this has to be the single most important issue at hand – and of course, it is horrifically sad.

So, back to this morning’s Metro comments. “Sense of perspective” is important, but I wouldn’t say that the country has lost it in this case. We can’t begin to neglect the human sadness of everyday life simply because other horrible things are happening elsewhere. Wouldn’t that, in fact, but losing our “perspective” – or even our humanity, drummed out of us by constant, numbing bad news? No matter what else is going on in the world, the death of Peaches Geldof is a tragedy – and those that are saying that we shouldn’t care as much as we do, or that the end of her life was only “worth mentioning”, or that the media should have relegated her to a side column, are forgetting this fact.

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