Begin Free Online Ordination

Celebrity StarLast year, 2016, and the first few months of 2017 have left people worldwide surprised at what appears to be an increase in celebrity deaths. From musicians Prince, David Bowie and George Michael to actors Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds and Bill Paxton, the latest report almost always stuns and saddens fans, causing them to remember their lives and the reasons that a famous person was special to them. New technologies, along with the ever-present human need to connect with others, have given rise to the ways in which people commemorate well-known stars and personalities.

Celebrity Is Not New

It would be shortsighted to believe that fame is a relatively new concept. Author Stephen Miller revealed in his 2004 book “Ancient Greek Athletics” that charioteers, runners, wrestlers and track-and-field competitors were honored by their communities as heroes, with songs and poems composed for them as well as gifts offered by those seeking celebrity endorsements. Eighteenth century Europe was also a hotbed for those seeking fame, with musicians such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart gaining similar notoriety as present-day figures in music such as Lady Gaga, Demi Lovato and Alicia Keys. Moreover, gossip columns could be found in Paris and London newspapers as early as the 1700s, reporting on the latest juicy bits of minutiae and scandal about the local and national favorites.

Modern Technology Makes Famous Death News More Immediate 

The arrival of broadcast mass media in the mid-20th century was the first innovation that led to the widespread mourning of celebrity deaths. Grief-stricken fans found themselves contending with radio and television news reports about the sudden deaths of musicians Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison between late 1970 and mid-1971. Global news media were notified within mere hours of the 1991 passing of Queen’s lead singer Freddie Mercury. In April 1994, music lovers were shocked to their cores after MTV News broke the story of the discovery of Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain’s body.

Now, social networks connect more people than ever before, allowing news to spread more rapidly and giving individuals a voice for their grief. CNN reported in April 2016 that after the discovery of Prince’s body at Paisley Park headquarters, reports spread quickly over Facebook and Twitter. Fan reactions aligned with the typical stages of human grief: denial, anger, bargaining and depression. “Omg I pray it isn't Prince :( Please don't let it be Prince!!!!” one Facebook user posted. “Oh, no, seriously, Prince?! No. I can't handle another artist lost this year,” a Twitter user said.

While new technologies provide ways for mourners to connect with each other, some human tendencies remain constant. Fans continue to pay Cobain tribute at an informal memorial in Seattle’s Viretta Park over 20 years after his death. Shrines were erected to Prince in various locations, including the 2016 Coachella festival and at the premises of Paisley Park. CBS Los Angeles revealed that hundreds of fans gathered to hold a lightsaber memorial for Carrie Fisher shortly after her passing, a makeshift shrine was constructed on her star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and fans invoked the iconic expression, “May the Force be with you,” as a sendoff.

The Need to Mourn and Connect With Others Is Timeless

Whether it’s ancient times, the medieval era, the enlightenment period or the modern age, humans revisit the same behaviors and tendencies to mourn their heroes. They share stories with each other, craft shrines to the people they admire and create art that pays tribute to them. This is how the memories of religious figures such as Buddha, St. Francis of Assisi and Martin Luther remain, and it’s no different with modern luminaries. Technology has only provided new methods of communication and new ways to memorialize their heroes, but the nature of human grief and the need to mourn as a community endure.

Category: Society


Add Your Comment

To post a comment you must log in first.
You may alternatively login with your credentials, below.