We hold celebrities, even if we don`t want to admit it, on an imaginary pedestal. Take a look at the Celebrity section of a convention and it becomes pretty obvious. We become star-struck and get a rush of adrenaline when we get their autograph, picture or attend a Q & A. We buy tickets for their concerts or events as soon as they go on sale, or read every article on their next big project. So it`s no wonder that we have an equally intense reaction when a particular performer passes away.
Face it, the world is full of celebrities. The ones that truly move us however, are not only immensely talented, but possess a certain charisma and warmth that makes them stand out from the rest. Maybe that’s why 2016 seems to be so difficult when it comes to the celebrities that we have lost, and we have lost some incredible talent. Prince, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Abe Vigoda, Muhammad Ali….
So what is it about the death of celebrity that hits us so hard? We don’t know them, not really. We watch their movies and shows, read their books, listen to their music. We follow them on Twitter and Instagram. We see their highs and their lows laid out for us in print or on the screen. It’s not like we are friends but we still take the news of their passing at times, with almost as much emotion as the loss of a friend. Why is that?
Take me for example. I loved the old Hollywood musicals growing up. Yes, they were unrealistic, not politically correct (a sign of the era that they were created in), but I loved the talent. I even tried tap dancing, hoping to have just a touch of the finesse that I saw onscreen (no such luck). I just loved how they made me feel, with their infectious optimism and the incredible singing and dancing talent that came off the screen. However, as I grew older, so did that era’s biggest stars. We lost Fred Astaire in 1987, Gene Kelly in 1996 and Cyd Charrise is 2008 to name a few. Although I was older, the memories that I had of these movies stayed with me, so losing them was like having to give up that part of my childhood. They were the reason that I fell in love with movies.
Did you ever watch The Muppets when they did their tribute to Jim Henson? If you tell me that you did and didn’t get even a little teary-eyed you are a liar. The world lost one of its most gifted performers, and for many of us, we were saying goodbye to a part of our childhood AND our adulthood. The characters continued on and we have enjoyed them, but I still look at photos of Jim and Kermit with fondness and a touch of sadness.
Music, tv and movies gives us an escape from the madness that is the real world. If we have had a bad day at work, watching one of our favourite shows can cheer us up. If we are discouraged by the endless stream of negative news stories, we can can put on a movie and forget about them for a few hours. If we are stuck cramming for an exam that we dread, we slip on our headphones and suddenly hours of studying become bearable. The worlds that are created by the performers that we follow, puts a barrier between us and the real world. Losing them breaks down that barrier and allows that all too real world to come rushing in.
It’s because we have made a connection with that person. We see some part of ourselves in them, whether it`s a reminder of our childhood, or someone who you find a connection with because of how you react to their music, or the roles that they play. We make it personal because for us, it is. Things like aging and death, well, that sort of thing is not supposed to happen to our idols.
So when we lose such a performer, we feel that we lose a piece of ourselves. We mourn, we get angry, we reminiscence about the first time that we saw them, and it’s because the world seems a little sadder without them in it. I think that Jim Henson’s quote sums it up best. A celebrity like him, or David or Alan, whether they realized it or not, managed to make a connection with the public that went beyond their performances.
It’s human nature to want to connect to someone, even someone who we may never meet. It’s human nature to feel sad when they are no longer with us. We remember them long after they have passed and are fortunate, thanks to their movies, cds and shows, to be able to continue to enjoy their work.
What we have to remember is that no matter how much we idolized them, that they were just people like us. We were just fortunate enough to know them for a while.
Text © Written In Geek blog (2016) All rights reserved
Pictures © Written In Geek blog or used with subject’s permission (2016)