September 27, 2009

The Cult of Personality

No, I'm not going to be talking about Living Colour (and if you're under 20, you probably have no idea what that sentence means anyway!) :D

I got my latest Entertainment Weekly mag yesterday - I really like my subscription. It's the only magazine I read cover to cover every week; I can't say that about any of my other subscriptions! There's not a lot of celebrity gossip; it focuses on the entertainment industry as a business.

Anyway, in this week's issue there is an article about how all of these celebrities' deaths mean big money. Get ready for my long rant....

This struck me as more than just a little creepy. Big business? Yes, I know this is nothing new - the first celebrity death I can really remember is Elvis. I was 8. I remember seeing all of the people filing past his casket and weeping. Even then I wondered how he got such a big family.

Because really - unless you knew the celebrity personally, why would you be upset by his death? There is no rational reason for this. That being said, I am also guilty of this behavior, to a certain degree. I remember being a little sad when Jimmy Stewart died back in '97. I even got a little choked up watching ALL of the networks run 'in memoriam' segments when Walter Cronkite died.

I would imagine this is a fairly new phenomenon, wouldn't you think? I mean, yes, seven of our presidents were either asassinated or died in office before TV, but I doubt the newspapers or radio stations interviewed throngs of mourners the way the networks do now. There really weren't true 'celebrities' before the movies, and our presidents were respected so much more than they are now (even the really bad ones like Harding).

But now, because there's so much time to kill on 24-hour news, you have to get every angle: where the celebrity died, the exact time of death, how they died; and of course right away the talking heads have to start speculating about whether or not it was accidental or if there's someone to blame (think Anna Nicole Smith or Michael Jackson on this one).

What REALLY kills me is seeing the "RIP so-and-so" status updates on Facebook. Now honestly, what is the point of this? Do these people truly care that someone famous has died, or do they just want to be the first of their friends to break the news and have the most comments after their post (I was so tempted today to put "RIP William Safire" as my status update, but I figured most people would've said, "Who?")?

It's pretty sad that we feel emotionally invested enough in these actors' lives that it would warrant tears or sadness. It's funny who the media pick for us (yes, they do) to posthumously worship, too. Patrick Swayze and Farrah Fawcett died from horrible cancers - they're prime candidates. So are celebs who died mysteriously. Come on now - did you not make fun of Anna Nicole Smith or latter-day Michael Jackson when they were alive? Then suddenly they die (which shouldn't have been a big surprise to anyone) and the media are ready to canonize them. And when the media get involved, many people follow suit, which is pathetic. I think about the time and effort it takes to organize a candlelight vigil, and I think, don't these people have anything better to do? Who are they really doing this for, anyway? So they themselves can get on TV?!

It's too bad that some people care more about John Hughes dying than some great-uncle that passed away last month. Unless that great-uncle was someone famous....


  1. One afternoon a coworker exclaimed "Oh my God, she's dead! Did you hear? She's dead." Other coworkers got upset, too, and reacted as one would when someone close dies. I came over panicked and horrified. "Who died?" I asked.

    "Anna. They found her dead."

    "Anna?" I was puzzled. We don't all know an Anna.

    "Yes, Anna. Anna Nicole Smith."

    I walked disgustedly back to my desk.

  2. We had the same thing happen in our office with ANS's death, Nick! One of my co-workers came over to me (luckily, I knew at this point who died) and started going on and on about how sad it was and what a good person she was, and all I could think was, "Wow, lady, you'll believe anything."