The Breadth and Depth of Celebrity Deaths
It seems obvious to me, although I admit that when I say “obvious”, I also mean unresearched and unverified: Of course there are more famous people dying. Why? Because there are more famous people.
There are a lot of articles about the relative number of celebrity deaths in recent years. Snopes has a good article about it. It made sense to me (ok, fine I found it), but I think it failed to consider a critical part of our media landscape: We are familiar with all kinds of bullshit celebrities.
Due to the massive availability of media, which has increased greatly over the last 80 years, we are familiar with more names and faces of people who lived today than before the advent of pictures, movies, television, and internet. Previously, the less famous “celebrities” hadn’t registered with the masses, and didn’t have a space to be mourned.
Not to pick on anyone, but George “The Animal” Steele died last week, and I don’t really care. To be fair to The Animal, I don’t care about 99% of the famous people who die that I haven’t met personally. All the lamenting over celebrities lost lately leaves me meh. There were people who died in 2016 that I am genuinely sad about, but you haven’t heard of them, and that’s ok. In return, don’t expect me to offer more than a polite “bummer” when your favorite almost-hall-of-famer or Grammy-losing musician dies.
My point, beside proving that I am a misanthrope, is that if not for the prevalence of media and my partaking in it, I wouldn’t have any idea who The Animal was. I don’t care about wrestling, now or then, and only know from secondhand revelations of love that anyone might care.
Those of us who even noticed that a lot of famous people died in the last year probably only think they were famous because we read stuff on Medium (or Parade magazine or Reader’s Digest…I don’t know, how old are you?). Warhol’s fifteen minutes didn’t account for an extra five for the obituary.
In the interest of proving that I do care about people I’ve never met, here are a list of less well known deaths in 2016 that saddened me…
And as much I loved Prince and Muhammad Ali and Merle Haggard and Gene Wilder and George Michael, there is one person whose work I spent more time with than all of those put together. If you ever looked at a magazine (practically any magazine) between 1965 and 2000, you’ve seen his work, even if you never knew his name: