So last night, I watched Extreme Home Makeover. The family who got the home makeover really did need a new home. They lived in a dilapidated trailer that was falling apart. But, as anyone who has watched Extreme Home Makeover knows, the families who get blessed with a new home have to be community minded folks who have "paid it forward" so to speak. Last night's family consisted of a married couple and their 12 year old daughter, Katrina. There used to be another daughter, 17 year old Alex, but Alex died in a car accident.
It would be tragic for any family to lose a child to a car accident. And Alex's death was especially sad, since she was a strikingly beautiful young woman who had a bright future ahead of her. In the course of the show, Alex's parents showed everyone how their deceased daughter used to leave touching notes all over the house. There was even a note written in dust on the window in Alex's mobile home bedroom. Indeed, it seems that Alex was a caring, loving, exceptionally lovely child who was destined to go far in life except for the fact that she was killed at such a young age.
Unfortunately, as wonderful a person Alex Brown apparently was, she was entirely responsible for her early demise. The reason Alex Brown died is because she chose to text while driving. Further complicating matters, Alex was not wearing a seatbelt when she had her wreck. In the course of sending what must have been a very important text message, Alex had a collision and was ejected from her car. She died of massive injuries... totally preventable injuries, I might add.
So... Alex's family decided to do something with their loss and started a campaign to educate high school students about the dangers of texting while driving and driving without a seatbelt. They sent an application to Extreme Home Makeover and were awarded the grand prize, a brand new home. They were sent to New York City while locals in their town helped build their new home. Meanwhile, the show was a combination PSA against texting and driving while unrestrained and promoting Justin Bieber's and Emma Roberts' careers.
I think it's great that these people are trying to make some good come out of losing their daughter/sister. However, toward the end of the program, I noticed that the people involved with this home makeover seemed to be trying to make some kind of saint out of Alex Brown. No doubt she was a wonderful girl. No doubt that teens need to be reminded to be safe. No doubt it's very sad that she died. But she died doing something really dumb... something that could have had tragic consequences for many more people.
Maybe I'm being a buzzkill for bringing up the obvious. I don't think Alex Brown is a heroine. I think her death was tragic and it was a very lucky thing that she was the only one who ended up dying in her accident. But Extreme Home Makeover came very close to making her out to be a martyr. Alex Brown is not a martyr. At 17 years old, she should have known better... certainly about wearing a seatbelt. Wasn't she raised in the enlightened age of car seats, booster seats, and seatbelt laws? And I want to know, who paid for her cellphone? If the family's home was in such poor shape, why did Alex have a car and a cellphone?
Alex Brown could have easily been a villain instead of a quasi-martyr had the circumstances been just slightly different. The one blessing of her accident is that it happened on a quiet country road and only involved her and the car she was driving. What if she'd been on a busy highway or an interstate? What if she'd been driving in a school zone?
I wonder if these parents would have felt the same need to turn their daughter's death into a cause if she had ended up killing a young family along with herself. That accident could have killed or injured several people, not to mention caused serious damage to other peoples' vehicles and livelihoods. A multi-car pile up on the interstate would have done more than killed and injured people, it would have had a ripple effect on the community by way of lost wages and lowered productivity. After all, people who are hurt or killed in car accidents don't tend to have the best attendance records at work. If she had lost control of her car and crashed it into a building, she no doubt would have created work for building contractors, but imagine how such an event would have affected the people who were living or working there.
I also wonder if Alex Brown hadn't been such a beautiful, popular girl, would she have made an effective poster child for the "no texting while driving" movement? What if she had been a fat, ugly, unpopular girl who died while texting and driving? Of course, an unpopular girl probably wouldn't have been texting and driving... Unpopular and unattractive girls tend to be outcasts with few friends.
Some people might say Alex Brown could have qualified for a Darwin Award instead of an Extreme Home Makeover. Nevertheless, as the show was ending, I couldn't help thinking how pricey the family's new "free" home was. As the Brown family walked into their beautiful new home, I turned to my husband and quipped, "That house was very expensive. It cost them their daughter's life."
Now... the Brown family seems like a very nice family. I know they can't help how Extreme Home Makeover portrays them. I admire the fact that they are trying to do some good after living through a tragic situation. And just so no one thinks I'm totally heartless, I want to help get the word out. Remember kids... cars are potentially lethal weapons, not just for you, but for everyone else on the road. Please wear a seatbelt and don't text and drive.