The Kennedy Obsession

I admit, that I am guilty of being one of the millions of people that is truly obsessed with the Kennedy family. They have been on my brain constantly this week, for several reasons. As I sit here on this Sunday afternoon, trying desperately to come up with an intriguing, and thought provoking post, all my brain keeps coming back to is “The Kennedys”. And so it got me thinking. Why after all these years, are people still so interested in the Kennedys? What is it about that name, that fascinates people so much? I think there are numerous answers to this, some of which we will discuss below.

There are many reasons why my brain has been focussed on this famous family this week. First, the ABC special “Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words” aired. It was a two hour special which featured numerous interviews with the former first lady, which were conducted a few months after John F. Kennedy’s assassination. The interviews have never been heard, and were extremely candid. Mrs. Kennedy left no topic untouched, and did not censor her feelings about anything. The ABC special accompanies a book, and CD set which have been released to mark the fiftieth anniversary of JFK’s inauguration. Mrs. Kennedy’s voice had a soft, and almost eery tone to it (which of course is even more eery when you consider she has been dead for seventeen years). After watching the interviews, my brain was filled with the images of the Kennedy administration, both inspiring and haunting as they are.

The next day, my obsession with the Kennedys continued after I saw that the interviews had led to a boom in visitors to TOP. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of last week, TOP saw more visits than it normally does in an entire month, and the one post which saw 95% of the traffic was “Flashback Friday – Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis”. It seems that Google was put to work informing people all about Jackie’s life, and luckily, some of that traffic was directed here.

The rest of the week was filled with normal school related duties, and I had put the Kennedys out of my brain. But then they returned again on Saturday with the news that Kara Kennedy Allen had died at 51. She was the daughter of Ted Kennedy, who died in 2009. She died of an apparent heart attack, possibly as a result of cancer treatment which had weakened her body. That news simply furthered the trend of young Kennedy family members dying much before their time. I then went to Chapters that same day, to browse through some books. I of course checked out the Political Science and U.S. History sections, where I thumbed through dozens of Kennedy related books. I even added a couple of the ones I saw to my Christmas list.

Then that took me to Sunday, as I sit here trying to write a post. I had planned to write about presidential photographers, and the interesting role they have in American history. I was browsing the website of current presidential photographer Pete Souza, when I came across a photo of President Obama and Ethel Kennedy (widow of Robert Kennedy). It got me thinking once again about the Kennedys, and any progress on the post about presidential photographers was gone.

So now that I have bored you with the mundane details of my life for approximately 550 words, what is the point to this post? Well it got me thinking about why, nearly 47 years after JFK was assassinated, is America (and myself) so interested in the Kennedys. Aside from Ted Kennedy, who served in the Senate until his death, there has not been a Kennedy in a major political office for many years. Yes, a few of the grandchildren have held political office, and done significant things with their name and talents. But the generation of Kennedys that America fell in love with, is pretty much all dead. There is only one remaining child of Joseph and Rose, and one can make the argument that the generation of of their grandchildren has not made nearly the same impact on American political history. Yet for some reason, books are still being written, television specials are still being produced, and people are still yearning for more information on the family.

It likely has something to do with the fact that the family has endured enormous tragedy. To have two of the most prominent members killed by crazed gunmen, creates haunting intrigue. Even to those who did not live through it, the images of a widow still wearing a blood stained suit as she watches her husband’s successor get sworn in is incredible. And of course, the image of a young boy, saluting his father’s casket will never leave one’s brain.

The family has given the country a real life soap opera for decades. As with any great soap opera, there is money, love, sex, death, scandal and heartbreak. I am not sure if there will ever be an end to the Kennedy Obsession. The family will forever live on in history.

What are your thoughts? Why are the Kennedys so interesting? Do you have the same level of interest? Do you think they are overrated? Add your thoughts below.


About Chris James

A student of political science at a Canadian University sharing stories of interest on Canadian and American political and social issues.

Posted on September 19, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I think they are an equivalent to British Royalty. Scandals, trials, triumphs were all very public, including both assassinations. When you add in the children that have taken up public life, or have married into public life you have more of an obsession.

    Lots of similarities when compared to Diana and Will and Kate.

  2. On a side note, the Kennedy’s miniseries kept me busy on my flights to and from Montreal this summer, so I am guilty as well.

  3. i think what makes the kennedys so interesting is their rise and fall. it is all so bizarre and unique that it seems fitting for a soap opera. why watch fake tv stories that are dramatic and bizarre when you can read about the kennedy family? its just as bizarre and crazy and it is all real!

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