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The No-Win Argument

Death is just one of those things. You have no idea how much time is left on the clock. We assume it's at least... some fairly robust number - maybe 82, certainly not 28. And we assume that in the span of a lifetime, we will get to have the experiences that we all know life to hold: to have a childhood with a loving family, make friends, learn some things, develop some hobbies, choose a career, find love and maybe have a family, perhaps travel a bit, and perhaps pass along the things we've learned to help the next group of earth dwellers before we move on to what's next.

There was one of those surprise deaths yesterday, and you know all about it because it's been all over everything, and it will continue to be today, because an autopsy will be performed, funeral arrangements will be made and there's an eventual Hollywood blockbuster film due this summer, so we'll have to rehash this sad tale when the Warner Bros. PR machine gears up this July.

In the newyorkers community, there was a fellow who posted, then deleted his post about how he didn't want to be insensitive but who cares that some actor is dead. And, in a way, I understand that reading hundreds of posts about some actor, whose work you might not have even liked or seen, could be annoying if you just want to view the usual on your friendslist. But it certainly doesn't merit a rant about it, especially in a community post!

1. If LJ is about anything, it's about celebrity talk and people's personal feelings. This story sat right at the intersection of both.

2. It just happened. It's barely been twelve hours since the news broke, so it's no surprise that there has been a flurry of comments as more and more info comes out.

3. It was unexpected. And unexpected things require more discussion. We need to talk about issues to help them make sense.

4. What really happened? We still don't know. And it's possible we may never. More posts ahead.

This isn't new for Hollywood. James Dean and River Phoenix, just to name two previous examples. So, in that sense, this probably shouldn't be that big a deal, right? But the Hollywood machine makes us think we know these actors personally. We see a bit of their lives, view photos of their homes in Architectural Digest, see them behaving "just like us" at coffee shops, gas stations and supermarkets. We hear them talk about their lives, and read articles... look at photo shoots, until we think we "know" them. We follow their careers, we like their performances and buy the DVDs of their movies.

The irony here is that personally, I felt like I knew almost nothing about this particular person. I had seen him on the red carpet with various escorts. I have viewed some of his films. And I have even seen him in interviews, but I have to say, next to River Phoenix, this was one of the actors I know the very least about, and I have to wonder if that was by design.

It's a No-Win Argument to complain about the reaction of people to a celebrity death, especially one that is far younger than anyone would expect. Yes, it's tragic when anyone dies, but when they have a career on the upswing and far more importantly, when they have a young daughter that now probably won't have any conscious memories of her father, it seems just that much more saddening. She will now only be able to get to know him like the rest of us... through his acting roles. That's the saddest part of all.

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
paladin3
Jan. 23rd, 2008 03:13 pm (UTC)
well said.

As I listened to the radio this morning, I heard someone talk about the "devastating" news. I think the hyperbole is awful...and was so irritated by all the rumor-mongering by people who just had to believe the worst before any facts were known.

A sad thing happened. A tragedy for those who knew and loved him. Even worse for the daughter who will never know him. But anyone who is devastated because someone they watched on the screen died just does not have enough life in their life.

p3
penpusher
Jan. 24th, 2008 04:06 am (UTC)
We do make celebrities our "royalty" in a way, or really the media, agents, the Hollywood Machine makes that happen. And in a even sadder way, there is a profit in these stories... Every gossip mag is going to do their take on this story, cover stories. It's the ugly side of a beautiful business.
twopiearr
Jan. 23rd, 2008 04:03 pm (UTC)
What really happened? We still don't know. And it's possible we may never. More posts ahead.

This, more than anything, is the aspect of the posts that annoys me - less the "OMG HE'S DEAD"-ness of it than the fact that 97 billion posts all say essentially the same thing, about which there's nothing to say until more information comes out.
penpusher
Jan. 24th, 2008 04:08 am (UTC)
People just want to talk about it. Now it seems like accidental overdose is the likely cause. Mm. I'm sure we'll hear more and more between now and July.
xqjennaqx
Jan. 23rd, 2008 08:58 pm (UTC)
I think there's another layer to why people are always so freaked out by celebrity death... These are people that everyone aspires to be. They are beautiful. They have everything. And yet, for them, just like anyone else, life can end in an instant, without warning. I think it's kind of a weirdly poignant reminder of our own mortality.

We hold these people up as having everything we want, and then suddenly we have our lives, and they no longer exist. It kind of makes everyone question their own priorities, I think.
penpusher
Jan. 24th, 2008 04:12 am (UTC)
No, that's absolutely right, Jenna. How could someone who has everything just lose it all in a split second? Their lives are supposed to be perfect.

It shows that when you envy someone's life, there's more than just the good stuff that happens during it.
soleta_nf
Jan. 23rd, 2008 11:46 pm (UTC)
Excellent essay. I completely agree.
penpusher
Jan. 24th, 2008 04:18 am (UTC)
Thanks... It won't be the last surprise death of a celebrity, for certain, so it will happen again. It's just the nature of life. Good wishes to the families and friends.
__shesaid__
Jan. 24th, 2008 03:12 am (UTC)
Very well put!!!!! I agree with your last line, I too feel the saddest part of this tragedy is that his little girl Matilda isn't going to really remember that much about him and will have to rely on memories from her mother and family, along with viewing movies of his in the future. Poor kiddo.
penpusher
Jan. 24th, 2008 04:20 am (UTC)
They were talking about this little girl "mourning." Really, there's not even a concept of that yet! Even JFK jr. in 1963 didn't quite get what was going on, and he was about 5 or so. Hopefully, the little family will be ok.
__shesaid__
Jan. 24th, 2008 04:08 pm (UTC)
My niece was 18 months old when my mom died, and I don't recall her mourning since she wasn't really aware of things. She knew that grandma was gone, but she couldn't comprehend what was going on other then knowing something bad happened when she saw the stretcher with the blue body bag leaving:(

I hope that over time things will be okay and she'll learn all about him through the family members.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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