Comparing the way the deaths of Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall are being reported

(30 Posts)
weatherall Wed 13-Aug-14 09:22:25

Has anyone else noticed how the reporting of Lauren Bacall's death has focused on her looks and her relationship with a man (bogart)?

Her marriages were mentioned whereas Williams's weren't.

It is only today I've heard about RW's children whilst hers have been mentioned this morning.

Also generally there has been less focus on her death but this is probably because of the additional element of suicide in Williams' case.

Not being disrespectful to either.

It is the media I am making comment about.

AICM Wed 13-Aug-14 09:53:45

I'm not sure what to make of this.

It's very hard to compare because of the obvious difference in their deaths.

The news reporting of both would focus on very different aspects of the story. With RW the suicide would be the major element of the story whereas with LB it would be a review of her life.

In relation to her looks it's hard to get away from the fact that she did make a career based on her looks - that is what she was partly famous for so it would be difficult not to mention it in an obituary.

As far as being defined by a man is concerned she did marry one of the most famous actors of all time - again it's hard to get away from that in an obituary. I Googled Bogart and the first obituary I saw mentioned Bacall in the first sentence.

Williams wasn't married to anybody famous (as far as I can see) Bacall was married to Bogart and Jason Robbards and had a relationship with Sinatra. So it's more likely her marriages would be mentioned. The BBC website does mention Williams' current wife.

I'll watch out for this in future but for the reasons I don't see an issue at the moment.

allisgood1 Wed 13-Aug-14 09:58:44

They did mention RW was married and slept in a different room the night before he was found. Not quite sure what your point is?

AICM Wed 13-Aug-14 10:00:26

allisgood1 do you mean my point or the OPs?

tribpot Wed 13-Aug-14 10:00:38

I agree, it's hard to make a direct comparison. Hard to say to what extent it is based on a recognition factor - macabre though it is to comment, the obituary of Eric Roberts is likely to start 'ER, brother of Julia Roberts ... ' and go from there. More about relative fame/power than necessarily gender.

vicmackie Wed 13-Aug-14 10:12:20

Pretty much all the coverage of RW's suicide in the Metro this morning was about how depressed and anxious he was about having to pay alimony to his 2 ex wives. Lots of stuff about unbearable financial burden etc. They didn't quite come out and say "those gold digging blood sucking bitches drove him to an early death" but it was very heavily hinted at IMO. It was very interesting.

EdithWeston Wed 13-Aug-14 10:27:23

Lauren Bacall died aged 89, and I expect obituaries covering all her whole life were already on the shelf.

Robin Williams' suicide was handled totally differently as a news story because of the unexpected manner of his death.

And I think it seems different to a British audience, because in all parts of the UK there is an Inquest system and medical/financial/other relevant details would be held back until the Inquest whereas in US they're published immediately (which gives quite a different impact to reports).

I think you'd need to compare her obituary with those of men of a similar age at death to see what the similarities and differences were. A suicide in mid life is always going to be reported very differently from a death in old age, before you get into considerations of gender.

PetulaGordino Wed 13-Aug-14 10:43:03

vicmackie that made me hmm too

MostWicked Wed 13-Aug-14 10:43:49

No, I don't get your point at all.
Robin's ex wives have been mentioned a lot.
Their deaths are so completely different, I don't see the point in trying to compare them.

PetulaGordino Wed 13-Aug-14 10:44:32

the mirror had the same stuff on the cover

Greythorne Wed 13-Aug-14 11:53:58

I don't quite agree either.

I have seen coverage of RW's wives but none of them was famous.

LB was married to two very famous men and her children are actors / have achieved fame too.

Nit sure you can compare in this case.

ionracas Wed 13-Aug-14 13:05:16

I did notice that. Lots of slideshows with glam photos of Bacall. Also lots of talk about her husbands and other relationships, no mention I have seen of Williams' marriage troubles.

Greythorne Wed 13-Aug-14 13:16:05

The front page of the DM shows RW with his two ex-wives!

PetulaGordino Wed 13-Aug-14 13:18:49

in the context though of him allegedly having money troubles due to paying them alimony following the divorces

AmberTheCat Wed 13-Aug-14 14:05:21

Not sure about the comparison with RW, but I was struck by the focus on the radio this morning on LB's relationship with Bogart. Of course it was going to be mentioned, but R4 this morning played a long clip of an interview that was basically her talking about her first impressions of Bogart, how they'd got together, etc. To me it felt like too much emphasis on her marriage and not enough on her work.

weatherall Wed 13-Aug-14 14:06:19

1) I deliberately posted this in fwr because I think you need to be aware of feminist critical practice to 'see' these trends.

2) I was comparing the first 24 hours of reports of their deaths. I never heard RW's 1st 2 wives mentioned that early. Now that they are being mentioned it is in a misogynistic way.

3) since RW's suicide is atypical I have looked for a better comparison to compare the reporting of LB's death to. Peter O'Toole was the most recent 'old Hollywood' male star to have died so I looked up his obituary in the guardian and compared it to the one of LB in today.

I can't link on my phone but they are easy to search for and read.

P O's only mentions his appearance in the 1st para. There are brief mentions of his 2 marriages and births of DCs but doesn't mention their names. There is mention of 'fighting'. The focus is on his films.

L B's has 'alluring' as the 1st word. The 1st para says 'career defined through her partnership with HB'. She is then described as a nice girl with photographic potential.

The credit for her early performances is given to her director: ' Hawks's creation became the fantasy of a generation'.

In relation to her marriage to HB the journalist says 'Bacall was obsessed with her adoring hero'.

In relation to JR 'her marriage produced her 3rd child'.

So the message given out by the media to our DDs who may want to be actresses is 'look good and marry well'. hmm

Itsfab Wed 13-Aug-14 14:10:17

allisgood1 I don't think he did sleep in a different room. It appears he went to another bedroom and died soon after his wife went to bed. I suspect they had a house with numerous bedrooms and he obviously was not going to harm himself in the marital bedroom.

OP, I think you are trying to make something out of something that isn't there.

specialsubject Wed 13-Aug-14 14:20:30

Lauren Bacall was a very respectable age and died of natural causes. Her death is sad but not a tragedy in the way that a man driven to suicide by mental illness is.

also, when Bacall started her career the job description was indeed 'look good and marry well'. At the time she would NEVER have got anywhere if she had not been good-looking. Indeed, that is how she started work - as a model. Times have changed.

BTW she was also that mumsnet demon, the Other Woman, when her relationship began with Bogart. He was in a violent marriage to an ill woman at the time.

Maalia Wed 13-Aug-14 14:43:38

To add all the possible explanations, RW was more of a contemporary than Bacall. We grew up with some of his films and our children too. Bacall had an illustrious career, but her heyday belonged to a different era. The coverage of her death would be more formulaic and her filmography would not mean as much to the younger generations, hence the focus on her private life. Not trying to excuse it, we all know what the media are like, but that might partially explain it.

PetulaGordino Wed 13-Aug-14 14:50:48

weatherall i think your comparison with peter o'toole is interesting. after all sian philips is well-known, though less so than humphrey bogart i would have said, and his daughter acts too

weatherall Wed 13-Aug-14 14:53:38

What the media are like?

Sexist is what the media are like.

Special subject-

'Look good and marry well'

Noooo, that doesn't happen anymore

Katie Holmes
Nicole Kidman
Linda Hamilton
Kate Winslet
Kate Capshaw
Jennifer Anniston
Gwyneth Paltrow
Angelina Jolie

AICM Wed 13-Aug-14 16:20:52

I think you may have got a more favourable response if you'd gone with Peter OT in the first place. As is your comparison of LB and RW looked like an attempt to find sexism were there was none.

In relation to LB and POT I do see the point that you are making but feel that female movie stars will always be judged on their looks more than male ones and that obituaries will always reflect this.

Bue Fri 15-Aug-14 10:00:50

weatherall but you could say exactly the same for the men that 5 of those actresses have been involved with. "Look good and marry well!' Go figure, beautiful Hollywood people have relationships with beautiful Hollywood people.

You don't think the obits of Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt will one day be heavily influenced by their relationships with those women?

NickiFury Fri 15-Aug-14 10:04:00

I agree with the OP and thought the same thing, the article that made me think was one describing how she had an affair with Frank Sinatra when married to HB. I couldn't see how that was at all relevant tbh.

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