When Alan Rickman passed, grief could be found everywhere in the halls of the school. He had been a staple in everyone’s favorite book and movie series growing up. The twinge of sympathy I felt brought about the question, why do I feel so bad for this person I’ve never met?
For one, they may not have known us, but we sure knew them. Celebrity lives aren’t exactly private, there are entire shows dedicated to the lives of famous people that expose every nook and cranny of their supposed personal life. We knew things about them that if it were us, would be hidden away in secret. This culture surrounding celebrities created a connection to them that we don’t experience with strangers. We were there with them, learning about the good and bad of their lives as if it were an ongoing soap opera in and of itself.
There’s a pool of people who grieve for the departed. To our scale, the people that we affect are usually our friends and family. On a celebrity scale, it’s their friends and family as well, but also their fans. For larger celebrities, their fanbase could be entire nations, such as David Bowie, whose death sent waves of sadness throughout the world.
Growing up, we find comfort in certain artists and actors; listening to their music, watching their shows, occasionally developing crushes. Consuming this media can sometimes define who we are. This nostalgia serves as a reminder of a happier time, a time when our innocence still existed and ignorance was bliss. Having that source of early on-set happiness taken away feels like a part of that childhood is gone. We found role models in celebrities, even if they weren’t the best for the job.
There are multiple sources to a person’s happiness. It could be their spouse, children, pets, parents, etc. For many, it’s their favorite TV shows, movies and songs. When we fall in love with a certain piece of media, we can’t help but falling in love with the person behind the magic. As with the loss of anyone that we love, a celebrity’s death falls into the category of loved one through their contributions to our lives.
As I’ve been watching the Golden Girls and falling in love with the characters, it’s a sad thought to think that nearly all of those blue-hairs are dead (excluding Betty White). Old-time movies such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s feature many actors and actresses that have since passed, creating a time capsule of golden-age media. Fond memories accompany these movies and shows, because they encompass a point in time when people can think of them alongside the ‘good ol’ days’.
Personally, I’ll be a wreck when Meryl Streep dies, but I’d rather not think about when that time inevitably comes. We care so much about celebrities because of what they signify in our lives. The phases that we went through, the relationships we began and ended, finding connections with our loved ones through favorite songs and movies. Our lives begin and end, but the people who contribute to our happiness provide a timeless love that stays with us forever. We can only help but grieve for the artists who provided said happiness, despite having never met them.