2016. Brutal year. Especially for the deaths of icons. Not celebrities. ICONS. Bowie, Prince, Ali, Gene Wilder, Carrie Fisher. These people transcend mere celebrity status and became an indelible part of popular culture. Their influence as artists spread far and their passing was felt by anyone with a pulse.
But as with all things in popular culture even the celebrity death post receives the inevitable back lash. With so many taking to social media about the passing of their heroes, there is a part of the population who felt the need to reply to expressions of grief with “people die, dude,” and “it’s not like you actually knew him/her.” And to these people, I say:
I can’t stand contrarians. It’s like they’re saying, “Hey, I’ve got no actual personality to speak of. I know! I’ll shit on the things people love!” Then they get to be crappy to people on social media. When Lemmy died (I know it was 2015), I read a post on FB that said, “It’s not like you actually knew knew him,” and the next, I shit you not, 4 posts were tales of meeting the man and what a nice and genuine person he was.
Yes, people die. Thanks for the hot tip, Dr. Kevorkian. And yes, most of us don’t have a physical relationship with the celebrities who make news with their deaths. But we have a relationship with their work. And sometimes it’s a very personal relationship. I have a gay friend who turned to Bowie to get through some pretty dark times. How many comedians have you heard who cite George Carlin as the reason they got into comedy? Did they ALL personally know the man?
Then there’s the legacy that the artist leaves behind. Take Gene Wilder. Never say that Gene Wilder WAS funny. He’s still fucking funny. Go watch Young Frankenstein again. It's a perfect movie. The comedic timing of the 3 main actors is baffling. The writing is so crisp, the jokes transcend decades. Young Frankenstein still makes me laugh. It will always make me laugh. Go watch Young Frankenstein again. Then watch Willy Wonka. Follow it all up with Blazing Saddles. Then realize Gene Wilder WILL ALWAYS be funny. It's his gift to us. He left the world funnier than he found it.
But none of these deaths affected me more than Carrie Fisher. Shit, that one hurt. Not only was she Princess Ass-kicking Leia, her efforts to raise awareness with bipolar disorder helped many people get the help they need. On Instagram, Chris Hardwick stated that he felt a little selfish saying that a little bit of his childhood died with Fisher. I don’t think that’s selfish at all. She was a part of many of our childhoods. A great part. That’s why I have all her action figures. And that’s why I felt my tribute to her needed to be those precious toys of my childhood.
Don’t get me wrong, I get a little sick of stuff I see online over and over again online. Last night my feeds were full of Oscar posts. I don’t watch the Oscars because I’ve never seen half of the best picture nominees. Because I need to see Rogue One again. But I’m not going to shit all over the people who were watching and enjoying them. I just turned off my computer AND DID SOMETHING ELSE. Oh, you’re sick of seeing people talking about Bill Paxton’s untimely death? Too bad, because somebody out there got into acting because of Bill Paxton. Probably because of his role as Chet.
We’re sad when our heroes die because we’ll never get more of that thing we loved from them ever again. Or maybe it’s because we’ll never get to meet that person and tell them what their work meant to us. Or maybe it’s a combination of the two. Whatever the reason, it’s actual grief and it’s real and you can go ahead and feel it. Don’t let some insecure shit head make you feel weird about mourning someone you never met. Tell them to go read a book. Or better yet, go write a fucking book. Add something other than negativity to the world. Then maybe if they’re lucky social media will mourn their passing too.