For Auld Lang Syne

Image via Kohei Kanno on Flickr, and then the silly text added by the author.
So on New Years Eve, a lot of people on social media keep saying that 2016 sucked, and they couldn't wait for 2017.

This seemed to reach a fever pitch in the few days that I was contemplating and writing this piece. In that Carrie Fisher had a cardiac event on a flight and passed away, followed the next day by her mother Debbie Reynolds. “Hands off Carrie Fisher, 2016” read several posts on my newsfeed, positing that the 16th year of the third millennium was to blame for her health issues and not, you know, all the drugs. Don’t get me wrong, Carrie Fisher and her mother were treasures — but the former was an admitted drug addict and the latter 84.

Then, Pop-Star, and multi-time arestee on drug-poeseeion charges George Michael (whose health was so bad in general that in 2012 his pneumonia was so severe he lapsed into a coma) passed.

His and Carrie Fisher’s death were seen in the context of a year that took from us:
  • David Bowie
  • Alan Rickman
  • Antonin Scalia
  • Harper Lee
  • Phyfe Dawg
  • Merle Haggard
  • Prince
  • Muhammad Ali
  • Geordie Howe
  • Elie Wiesel
  • Gene Wilder
  • Arnold Palmer
  • Leonard Cohen
  • Gwen Ifill,
  • Florence Henderson
  • Alan Thicke
  • Zsa Zsa Gabor
  • (among many others).

And just to be clear, I was as upset as anyone about several of these deaths, I grew up watching the McLaughlin group, listening to The Eagles (John McLaughlin and Glenn Frey also passed this year).

But the difference between myself and some of my contemporaries is that I don’t blame 2016 for the deaths any more than I blame 2014 for the finale of How I Met Your Mother.

Despite this, it seems to be common practice to pit this misfortune, but specifically the celebrity deaths, on the calendar itself. It seems to be an evermore common trope that 2017 will magically cure the rash of famous fatalities. Silly as it may sound in this context, we as a society need to get used to the idea of famous people dying, for so many reasons.

First, there are so many more celebrities than there used to be.

Yes, a supreme court justice dying may not be any more common, on average, than it used to be, since there are always 9 justices. But famous musicians are more likely to die when there are 1,000 channels of satellite radio, if only because there are so many more famous musicians.

Famous actors are more likely to die when there’s more “TV” content created for Netflix in a year than the three (THREE?!) TV stations that used to exist created combined — again if only because there are so many more actors to die!

Perhaps it’s fitting that the year where Kylie Jenner went from being Lamar Odem’s Ex-Wife’s little sister, to a socialite and lipstick mogul in her own right, would also be the year that that the woman who basically invented being famous for being so damn famous, Zsa Zsa Gabor, would die.

Want to talk about professional athletes?

Do you think it’s a coincidence that now with ESPN8 and the internet we know so many more athletes than we used to? And there are so many more teams in each league to follow. And so many more sports.

Want to know why no X-Games medalists died before 1995?

Because there were no X-Games before 1995.

In 1960 there were 17 Olympic events.

At the next summer games in Tokyo, there will be 33.

Thanks to Reddit and Youtube, you don’t even have to DO anything to be a celebrity now.

When Jenna Marbles or Antoine Dodson die, How will they be remembered?

How will they be mourned?

I’m not asking facetiously, I went as Antoine Dodson for Halloween in 2010, I made a remix of the AutoTune the News Remix of his news interview. I really like him, and I’ll be sad when he dies, but that’s a whole new genre of celebrity that didn’t exist 15 years ago.

This is a sheer numbers game.

The more famous people there are, the more famous people will die and the lower the threshold for “celebrity” becomes, the more celebrities there will be.

As the internet becomes ever-more prolific, there will be more celebrities we’ll be aware of.

As long as birth rates and life expectancy continue to increase, deaths will increase exponentially year-by-year.

The more connected we all are, the less likely it is we won’t hear about it.

And let’s not forget that 2015 was a terrible year for celebrity deaths too.
  • Ben E King
  • BB King
  • Justin Wilson
  • Wes Craven
  • Yogi Berra
  • Fred Thompson
  • Scott Weiland

There may be no end in sight to this.

So while we may remember 2016 as the year that took Ziggy Stardust and Snape and The Guy Formally Known As The Artist Formally Known As Prince, it’s naïve at best to think that your favorite famous people are going to stop dying in droves any time soon.

Sorry to be a downer, but I think the sooner we come to grips with this, the less upset we’ll be when we lose Bill Clinton.

Or Will Ferrell.

Or LeBron James.

Or Paul McCartney (or the guy who they hired to play him after he died in 1966).

It’s fine to look forward to next year, but to think that we can buck this trend, to turn everything around, and not reap what we have culturally sown is delusional.

As sad as it is to face reality sometimes — as The Flaming Lips say:

“Everyone you know, someday, will die.”

Happy 2017, everyone…

Ok so that was a little bleak, even for me…


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Written by Louis Reich of Comatose.

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