On Celebrity and Death

This tree, visible from my window, had been daring me to photograph it for days...

I’ve talked about death a few times in these pages. I’d like to say it’s an occupational hazard. I mean, I do write horror (among other things), so it’s going to come up. But more often than not, my posts about death are about real people, and how those deaths effect me and our culture as a whole.

It used to be that when someone famous died, the news hit in waves: the immediate broadcast news cycle, then newspapers the next day, then trickle-out word of mouth for anyone who missed the first two waves. When you got the news, it was generally in a somewhat impersonal reporting of the facts. Sure, it was somber, but it wasn’t personal.

The spread of social media has changed that. Now if you happen to be online when someone famous dies it spreads like a fire instead of a wave. First a few sparks here and there posting the news, then more, then suddenly it’s a trending topic. Even in our deeply cynical age where celebrities are treated as little more than product by the media, the news spreads. Partly because the Machine feeds on misery and death, but also because the loss feels personal. This was especially apparent with the high-profile death of Whitney Houston over the weekend.

Whitney touched a lot of lives in her time. Her death was tragic, and we all saw it coming down the tracks with the inevitability of an approaching train, which made it even worse. Everyone dies–at a rate of approximately 154,000 a day. No matter your beliefs on the afterlife, that’s the one thing every person on Earth has in common–no one gets off this ride alive.

Somewhere along the way, we lost sight of that. We forgot that the people in our lives–both the stars that light our way and the people who are with us daily–are not going to be there forever. Do you know what I didn’t see in the week prior to Saturday? I didn’t see a single post, comment, or briefest mention of Whitney. That’s not the case now, of course.

And I find that incredibly sad, because from the posts I’ve seen SINCE Saturday, she was important to a lot of people. It’s a shame that too often we don’t think to show our appreciation until it’s too late. After all, there’s always tomorrow, right?

Do you want to take that chance?

I don’t.

One thought on “On Celebrity and Death

  1. Oddly, I had been at the supermarket earlier that day, before the news broke, and saw an article about her on the cover of some tabloid. I didn’t pick it up and read it as I never read those things, but the timing was noteworthy, I thought, in hindsight.

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