Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Question of Fame

Since we're just having a free for all this week, I thought I'd write about something I was just thinking about this morning and that's famous people and why we're so fascinated with their lives, or more aptly, their deaths. Yesterday, I heard lots of talk about Al and Tipper Gore's divorce and I thought it was interesting that so many people found it shocking. Admittedly, I too was shocked. And then today, I watched Rue McClanahan's death ripple through Twitter, and I also had that sad moment where I remembered how much I used to love to watch the Golden Girls. And this is just the last two days -- last week I read with morbid curiosity and sadness about the death of Brittany Murphy's husband and also of Gary Coleman. But that brings me to my question: People get divorced all the time, and sadly, strangers (which is really what famous people are to most of us) die all the time. So why are we so saddened/shocked/impressioned by it when it concerns famous people?

Is it because we feel we know them, that through movies and TV shows, People magazine and Us Weekly, we feel like they're somehow distantly connected to us? Maybe. I think for me, whenever something bad happens to a famous person, it serves as a reminder that bad things can happen to *anyone* no matter how rich, privelaged, or famous they are. And things like death, illness, divorce, are scary to think about. These are the kinds of things we always want to think won't happen to us or our families, and so when they happen to famous people, who look and seem vastly shinier, wealthier, and more privelaged than the rest of us, maybe we suddenly realize we're a little less immune?

This morning, I found myself in a cemetary visiting someone's grave with my husband. As we walked around looking for the right place, I pointed out the very, very obvious to my husband that cemetaries are vastly depressing. They're huge, there are dead people everywhere, dead people you don't know, and names you don't recognize. And yet somehow, almost shockingly, that didn't feel as sad to me as reading about Rue McClanahan's death when I got home. Like all those graves I saw, she was just a stranger to me, so I have to wonder, what makes us feel more for celebrities?

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Oh I get sad about everyone's death, famous or not, for some reason it depresses me a lot. I don't think its fair that anyone should have to die, for any reason. But with famous people I think you are right, we see these people in the news and in the movies. And we feel we know them, even if it's just a tiny bit.

And for me I grew up watching the Golden Girls and so Ru's death { news to me I didn't know she died :( } sucks, it's like my granny died. A few months back however one of the celebrities that died, Pernell Roberts { Adam Cartwright from Bonanza} was related to me, and though we never got to meet I was beyond sad because I wanted to meet him and now I can't.

Maureen Lipinski said...

I think sometimes we relish in difficult things happening to celebrities because it makes them seem human, just like us.