So earlier this evening I saw “Whitney,” the new documentary about the life and career and demise of Whitney Houston.
Now, to begin with, Whitney Houston was my true first boyhood crush. Back when her debut album dropped in 1985, I would sit in my room and play it over and over and over again, staring longingly at her picture on the rear of the jacket. It was Whitney in a white bathing suit, and I’d calculate our age difference (she was nine years my senior) and try and figure how old I’d have to be for us to get married.
Through those years, my loyalties rarely waned. I remember seeing this video for the first time, trying to read into the lyrics. I remember seeing this video for the first time and noticing—for a second’s second—Whitney smoking a cigarette. I remember seeing this video and knowing we’d be happy together. And in case any of this sounds weird, well, I was a repressed boy in his early teens. I had yet to kiss a girl, hold a girl’s hand, even ask a girl out. Whitney Houston was my ideal of perfection.
Anyhow, I grew out of my Whitney Houston crush, but I always considered myself a fan. And as she seemed to physically and emotionally and vocally disintegrate before our eyes, I was genuinely crestfallen. It just struck me as example No. 654,332 of a superstar gifted with a talent unwilling to care for that talent. It pissed me off.
Tonight, though, I was reminded of a few things. First, just how talented Whitney Houston was. Second, just how poisonous her surroundings could be. And third—you rarely know what’s going on in a person’s life. If there is one bombshell in “Whitney,” it’s that as a child Houston was molested by her aunt, Dee Dee Warwick. This, it seems, fucked with her mental stability in myriad ways, and likely led her down the path of serious drug addiction. It’s a detail I’d never heard before; never even thought of before. And, in a way, it makes me feel quite idiotic having ever criticized Whitney Houston for failing to live up to her potential.
If anything, she overcame obstacles weaker people would have crumbled beneath.
Ultimately, “Whitney” was a solid (not amazing) doc that served a purpose.
Sadly, it doesn’t change anything.
Or bring her back.