Yeah, I was gonna do a Golden Globes wrap up post today, but I just can't bring myself to do it right now. I was already upset over David Bowie, but now Alan Rickman passed, and I barely want to do anything.
And I feel ridiculous. It's not like I knew either of them. There's no reason for me to be this sad, right?
Well, obviously, that's totally wrong. This would be a pretty terrible post otherwise.
There are several theories out there about why celebrity deaths mean so much to us. For starters, there's this beauty of a Tweet:
And I love that because it's true. We both know that you felt it as soon as you read it.
But... prolonged grief? Tributes flowing in from all directions, from all kinds of people who surely have something better to do with their time then write about dead people? (Why yes, this is me putting myself in the same category as the great artists who have done tributes for Alan Rickman, David Bowie, and all celebrities before.)
Tuns out, according to science, as we see celebrities in movies and TV, and listen to their music, watch their interviews and read what they have to say, we really do grow up with them, and there's a part of us that sees them as a member of our family.¹ So when they pass on, it really does feel like a member of our family is gone. It becomes even worse when they are a specific role model for us, or someone whose career path we want to follow.
Celebrity deaths also scare us, because of how much they remind us of our own mortality.² That sentence is taken almost word for word from one of my sources, listed in the footnotes below. (Yeah, I researched this and have sources and footnotes. What up.) But it weirds us out. After all, these people had the talent, the money, AND the fame (and thus, the best medical treatment) and they still died. As Professor Snape would've said, "clearly, fame isn't everything." And if they can die, then we probably will, too. That's a problem as we really don't want to die.
Our grief over celebrity deaths is also deeply compounded by the global town square that is the internet. By sharing our sadness, we find other people who feel the same way, which is helpful for our healing process. But it also means that we're constantly reminded of the fact, which also draws it out and makes our grief even deeper.³ I'm not the kind of girl who is gonna say that the internet is a bad thing, especially when I'm writing this on the internet and definitely deepening the problem. And if you're not already sad, it's not going to create the emotion for you. But it sure will magnify it. Just like the internet does with everything else.
Sometimes grieving a celebrity death is a channel for grieving someone else in your life who has recently died, like a family member.⁴ Sometimes you just had an incredible personal experience with the celebrity's work, and you can't/won't separate the artist from the art.⁵
I can't really say I have any absolute answers. I don't know for absolutely certain why we do or feel any of this. There are tons of plausible possibilities, but at the end of the day... we're all just sad, and admiring.
But, I guess, at the very least we are all reminded of what extraordinary lives these people have led, and how we could all stand for our own lives to be a little bit more like theirs.
Oh, and also...
"By Grabthar's Hammer, by the Suns of Worvan, you shall be avenged!"
(Click the link. It goes to the donations page for the Cancer Research Institute.)