As the internet continually pointed out,
2016 was a rough year in terms of celebrity deaths.
There is no doubt that 2016 claimed the lives of a serious number of iconic celebrities. January started the gruesome movement with the death of one of my favorite artists of all time, the glorious David Bowie – two days after his 69th birthday and the release of his album, Black Star. And that early blow sparked a terrible trend. Late in the same month we lost the incomparable Alan Rickman. Wands were raised in his memory. </3
The Nerd-world specifically lost Erik Bauersfeld (Admiral Ackbar/Bib Fortuna, Star Wars), Anton Yelchin (Pavel Chekov, Star Trek) Kenny Baker (R2D2, Star Wars), Peter Vaughan (Maester Aemon, Game of Thrones), Richard Adams (Author, Watership Down), Ron Glass (Shepard Book, Firefly) and, perhaps most poignant of all, Carrie Fisher (Leia Organa, Star Wars). In the last few days of 2017 too – talk about twisting the knife.
And that doesn’t even include the other tremendously beloved figures like Nancy Reagan, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Gene Wilder, John Glenn, George Michael, and Debbie Reynolds – the day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher (WHAT THE ACTUAL F*CK 2016?!). I could go on to list them all, but The Independent already took on that task for me. And my purpose here isn’t to tear open the wounds that have yet barely healed in your heart. I am looking at why those wounds feel so deep in the first place.
(OH SNAP, GUYS – 2017 IS STARTING DOWN THE WARPATH BY TAKING BILL PAXTON)
By the end of 2016, Facebook was full of memes and statuses claiming that 2016 had been the worst year ever. And that was largely due to the amount of precious celebs that it claimed. But, why do we care? We don’t actually know these people. We see them in movies or in interviews and we read their tweets, but they are not friends to us. So why did we feel like 2016 was attacking us personally?
I have some theories on the matter:
The crux of the issue, in my opinion, is that we are closer to celebrities now than we have ever been. In the past, the rich and famous lived in relative seclusion. Yes, the paparazzi have always been there to ferret out embarrassing moments, but never until the age of social media have we, the plebs, been so frequently invited into our idols personal lives. And it’s by their own choice/design! We see almost as much of our favorite celebs as we see of that one girl that we kinda sorta knew in high school who likes all of our posts without ever commenting. That voluntary information sharing gives us normal people a sense of camaraderie with celebrities that has never existed before. We are used to having them update us regularly – and when they’re gone, there is a form of voyeuristic connection that disappears from our lives, making us feel that we’ve lost someone we genuinely know.
Secondly, a large part of our heartbreak comes from the fact that much of the internet populace doing the lamenting is millennials. And I use that word as sparingly as possible, but it fits in this case. Millennials have officially reached an age where the actors and artists that our parents introduced us to when we were young are getting on in years. Millennials have grown up with people like David Bowie or Carrie Fisher being massive contributors to pop culture. These people literally shaped the world we were raised in. They feel like part of our history. Their passing almost feels like the death of an era of our lives. Until 2016, millennials had never lived in world without some of these people. They wrote the songs we were learning to love when our musical tastes were still questionable. They portrayed the characters that we pretended to be. They wrote the books that shaped our literary pallets (RIP Harper Lee). In short, they had huge roles in making us the people we turned out to be. And that is nothing to sneeze at.
Last, and most heartlessly of all, the reason we care so terribly much when our favorite celebrities die is because the media tells us to. Our current world is a constant barrage of 24 hour news that takes the most minuscule of things and spend hours or days telling us every detail and exactly how we should feel. Not to say that these deaths aren’t gut-retching (see previous two paragraphs), but if there were less news-time spent dissecting them would we all spend a few moments in reverent grief and then move on with our day?
I suppose I could be wrong. And you may have different reasons for grieving. I mean, it does stand that really almost any death is upsetting. As it should be. But it seems to me that 2016 proved just how important our stars really are to us. As tribute, here is a collection of happy photos of some our late heroes:
So which celeb death of 2016 did you take the hardest?
Or were you pretty unfazed?
Does everyone agree that Betty White is the Highlander?