There’s a new musical coming out–and it’s going to be about Amy Winehouse. Six years after her death at age 27, it’s going to focus on her most beloved songs. Her father, Mitch Winehouse, announced the news during the Amy Winehouse Foundation Gala last week. He said that “a musical celebrating her life and music is being talked about for the near future.”
He continued to explain how he wants Amy to be remembered for her music, not just her drug use: “It is something I’d really like to happen, and I’ve said I’m happy for it to go ahead. It would be for the West End. We want to do something that remembers Amy for what she was; there’s so much more to her than just the drugs and the alcohol.”
On one hand, Mitch Winehouse is right–Amy’s legacy is still often overshadowed by her drug use, and her devastating untimely death. It is only fair to remember Amy for all of her contributions, not just one side of her (which happens to so many women in general: being remembered mostly for their complications or “weaknesses” as opposed to their contributions).
Why is this? Sexism and misogyny. Women are often expected to be innocent, perfect beings–and when they do anything that rocks the boat, their successes and reputations are tainted. In contrast, men seem to be able to get away with terrible things like rape (see: Harvey Weinstein).
And indeed, the senior Winehouse isn’t a saint. It was hard not to see him as exploiting Amy in the 2015 documentary about her life and death, Amy. While any film may skew facts, we can only ascertain facts from the information we have. For instance, the documentary showed her father bringing film crew on a trip to St. Lucia where Amy was supposed to be recovering from her substance abuse.
He later attempted to explain the disturbing footage away: “The reality show that you refer to was a documentary that I made concerning the problems families face with addiction. Amy knew that and was happy to take part. Again the film shows something completely different.”
Regardless of Winehouse’s struggles with addiction and bulimia and an unhealthy relationship, her art should be celebrated and awarded.
We also need to remember the fact that addiction is a disease, that struggling with an eating disorder and being in an unhealthy relationship doesn’t make someone a bad person. It simply means they need help. Sometimes it’s hard to ask for help, but we can still find ways to help those around us even when they don’t ask.
So, the real question is: Is this musical actually going to celebrate Amy’s life or continue to exploit her? And where is that line between celebration and exploitation? Whenever we are honoring anyone, or opening up about our traumas and struggles with mental health and addiction, it’s important we do ourselves and others justice, with meaning and kindness.
If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with addiction, please contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357),(also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service), which is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish. You can also visit the online treatment locators.
For mental health concerns and issues, please contact Lifeline’s 24/7 number at 1-800-273-8255.