So, I think it’s fair to say that 2016 so far has taken many well-known and influential people, musicians and actors alike. The reactions on social media are all quite similar (“OMG I can’t believe it! RIP” “Another legend taken too soon” and other sentiments to that effect), and I just feel like I’m maybe taking too pragmatic of an approach to it, because I just feel a brief moment of sadness, have a quiet reflective thought and then carry on. If anything, I feel like as a member of humanity (and a self-confessed hyper-emotional person) that I should feel sadder than I do, but then feel worse when I don’t.
It reminds me of an episode of Daria, the cartoon television series about a teenage girl who I identified quite significantly with when I was in high school… perhaps Daria will be the subject of another blog post in the near future. For those of you not familiar with Daria, here is a brief description of her character: “Cynical, pessimistic and sardonic to a terminal degree, Daria’s intellect and academic insight is often counterbalanced by her pronounced lack of motivation… Her trademark characteristic is that she rarely changes her facial expression or the tone of her voice, except for a small satisfied smile akin to the Mona Lisa’s when she is pleased, and sometimes a high-pitched “Eep!” sound when something is suggested or hinted that involves Jane’s brother Trent. In the later episodes, she was more frequently drawn as sad when under emotional stress. Bemused by the world around her, Daria usually reacts to the stupidity of her classmates, faculty and family with a caustic remark, and only lets her emotions show in times of deep frustration.”
The episode I’m referring to is entitled The Misery Chick, where famed Lawndale High alumni quarterback and all-time jackass Tommy Sherman manages to annoy or anger everyone he encounters. Shortly after his exchange with Daria and Jane, he dies in a freak accident, crushed by the football goal post that was meant to be dedicated in his honour when it falls over on him. Other students keep coming up to Daria to talk to her and get advice on their sadness and grief because she’s “The Misery Chick”. In conversation with Brittany (the ditzy cheerleader):
Brittany – It’s like, I feel bad, but I think I should feel worse, and not feeling worse makes me feel bad all over again.
Daria – The truth is, Brittany, is that you are nice, or you wouldn’t be feeling bad at all right now.
Brittany – So… you’re saying that feeling bad about not feeling worse is good?
(pause as Daria lets that one sink in)
Daria – Yes. Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.
Brittany – Thanks, Daria! (runs off)
Daria – (writing on notepad) “Feeling bad… not feeling worse… good.”
Jane (Daria’s best friend) gets weirded out by Tommy’s death as she and Daria were the last ones to speak to him before the accident, so she spends most of the episode avoiding Daria. When Daria finally gets to speak to Jane towards the end of the episode, she beautifully explains why she’s been struggling:
Daria – Are you avoiding me?
Jane – Um… not anymore?
Daria – What’s going on?
Jane – Nothing. I just haven’t felt like talking to anybody.
Daria – I’m not anybody, and I’d like to talk to someone.
Jane – But you’ve been talking to everyone.
Daria – No, everyone’s been talking to me. There’s a difference.
Jane – Well, what do you want to talk about, anyway? You don’t care about what happened.
Daria – How can you say that?
Jane – You’ve been treating it like, “Oh well, another stupid day.” The guy died.
Daria – I know he died! I’m sorry he died! But I’m not going to pretend that he was some great person when he wasn’t. People aren’t upset because Tommy Sherman died; they’re upset because they’re going to die.
Jane – That’s understandable.
Daria – Okay, but you know what I’ve been hearing? “You know how I feel, Daria. You’re gloomy. I knew I can talk to you, Daria. You’re always miserable.” Tragedy hits the school and everyone thinks of me. A popular guy died, and now I’m popular because I’m the misery chick. But I’m not miserable. I’m just not like them.
Bringing it all back to the celebrity deaths that have hit this year so far…
People die every day. Sometimes it’s someone we know personally, but oftentimes it’s someone we don’t know at all. I think lately it’s seemed that more celebrities have died in a shorter space of time (than at any other time) because it’s people who have been very visible in the public eye who have died. You think about it, there were loads of actors and musicians in the first half of the 20th century who died without much acknowledgement because the media and information sharing of today was non-existent back then. People who have died recently may have started their careers in the 1950s/60s (or even 1970s/80s), and with the advent of television and globalisation of the media and information sharing over the subsequent decades means that these people have had an impact across generations, so their passing makes it feel more personal to us because we feel like we’ve grown up with them and have fond memories with strong emotions attached. But ultimately, it’s the stark realisation that if these seemingly superhuman people are just as mortal as the rest of us, then that means one day we will face our own mortality, which as humans we’re very good at denying and avoiding.
I don’t want to come across as an insensitive person and I hope I’ve made sense… I may come back in a few days, re-read it and think “geez, you really screwed that up!” and do a full re-write. But I’ve gone back and read it aloud and it seems to make the point I had set out to make.
In summary, I don’t think it’s a case that proportionately any more celebrities have died than at any other time in history… I reckon that it’s a case that more people are known through the media (film, television, and the internet) and it just seems like more well-known people have died, but it’s only because there are more of them that are known to us as the general public (that was very difficult to word!).
My thoughts are with the families and friends of those lost, but I am thankful for the impression left on the world that each and every one of them has made. Love & light xx
Edit: 22/04/16 at 23:45 – I was right! Look at this article published on the BBC News website (which only just appeared in my news feed, despite it being shared on the BBC Breakfast Facebook page this morning).