It’s time to stop.
Celebrity worship and the social media virtue signalling upon a death has gotten out of control.
Yes, we can agree that 2016 was the year the 80’s died. We can agree that it was a strange year with weird and wacky outcomes. We’ve heard it every single time someone’s died, in fact. Celebrity Death fatigue is officially a thing. Starting with the Death of Robin Williams in 2015, all of your friends on social media have taken it upon themselves to grieve for mankind’s loss.
“O! Thy cruel and unknown year. You are as a candle, the better burnt out. Thou wounds my nostalgia time and time again. Egads thou art a foul villain. A most notable coward. Thou art as loathsome as a toad. The year is unfit for any place but hell.”
Also, I am taking a bullet here and declaring postmortem articles to be in bad taste. So, to all of us writing “EXPLORATIONS OF CELEBRITY DEATH” and “WHY YOU SHOULDN’T WRITE CELEBRITY DEATH ARTICLES”, let us take a moment to reflect upon this.
Let’s break down the types of celebrities:
Scientists: Change the world with facts.
Artists (Writers, Musicians, etc): Change cultures with art, music, and words.
Actors: Performers – the puppets of directors and writers.
Thinkers & Revolutionaries: Use mind powers to make you think
Politicians: People involved in Politics. Change the world through laws.
Business People: Change economy and world through businesses and products
An actor can be inspiring to people who want to be actors. If someone connects with a character, an actor’s performance can enhance that connection, but the inspiration that character brings comes from the writer / creator of the character.
This may come as a shock, but Carrie Fisher is not actually Princess Leia. There is no Galactic Empire or Rebellion. There’s not a Civil War in space (currently). The story connects with us because it is timeless and Lucas built a universe that could act as a mirror to our own. Fisher can be inspirational to people who want to be script doctors or actors, but her character is not a reflection of her life. When you begin quoting all of the lines that were written for her when mourning her death, you aren’t actually quoting her.
Robin Williams is a similar case. We can celebrate his life and his performances – but his true wit and creativity comes from his self-works, his comedy and his writing.
Stage performance is moving and artful. Film is fine. You can feel emotion through an actor’s performance. Not everyone can act, I am not dismissing the skill. But…
Quiz: Which is disrespectful?
“I loved the moving performance of Hamlet by ACTOR, his portrayal is top notch because the way he delivered his lines shook my core”.
“I loved how Princess Leia was a strong leader and female role model and that’s why I love Carrie Fisher”.
Our tenacity for celebrity worship has caused our celebrities to believe they are super humans. They try to push their agendas on us and are personally offended when we don’t support them. They are megaphones for their own interests, they don’t represent all of us. By forgetting the person and confusing them with the character, we do ourselves and the celebrity a disservice.
This isn’t always the case, of course. There are revolutionary musicians, scientists, artists and more. Their legacies changed the world. Bowie’s performances and characters were part of his art. But he’s not Jareth the Goblin King – He’s David Bowie.
This is all a symptom of pop culture self-pleasure. We aren’t warriors or gatherers anymore. Instead of tactical and survival knowledge, we rely on a healthy dose of cultural knowledge to survive. We use this knowledge to make friends and maintain social standings. We’re raising the next generation to be meme-machines – capable of knowing all of the references but not necessarily having experience with those references. I don’t know if this is a good or a bad thing, but I think it’s irrelevant.
As writers and artists, our works and words will have the lasting impression. Our names are meaningless. Our culture has led us to believe that success is the proliferation of our name. We ache to be celebrities, believing it will solve our problems. Because of this we worship those who have made it. We wear their art and characters and ideas in our minds and mental makeup because we choose to let those things define us.
Consuming culture is addicting, creating culture is difficult. We should be inspired by culture. We should use it to empower us to generate new ideas and build great things. Social Signalling is just being a human repost mechanism, however.
Don’t disrespect those that have died with confusing their characters and works with the individual. The art that they created is immortal (not to dismiss their merit) but the creator is ultimately inconsequential.
You’re allowed to grieve the death of anyone, even celebrities (even if you didn’t know them IRL). You’re allowed to like Morrissey’s music even if you hate his attitude. You’re allowed to do whatever you want, really. Who am I to tell you to be any other way than yourself. Nobody. A nobody. We all hate these sorts of lectures anyways.
Hey, quick question. Would you rather your name is passed on, or your ideas or works that influenced the future?
Rest in Peace Harambe.
P.S. George Michael was like a Father Figure to me.