I wasn’t planning to post anything today, at least, until I realized I probably owe my friends and readers an explanation about why I don’t tend to mark the occasions of celebrity deaths. It’s something I’ve mostly taken for granted, but on the flip side, I’m not sure if it’s something those around me understand that well since I haven’t opened up too much about it.
So, here’s my explanation in a (very large) nutshell:
I always found it to be extremely bizarre how, when a celebrity dies, so many people act as though they were closer to that person than they actually were. You can admire someone’s art, you can invite someone’s philosophy and works and ideas into your life, but when you start treating the scenario like you were family and best buddies when that isn’t even slightly the case and you’ve never once met the person, that’s sick.
I’ve never felt the personal drive to invest so much emotion in celebrity. To me it has always seemed alien, isolationist, solipsistic. If someone does something awesome or noteworthy, then sure, feel free to recognize that. But please don’t take it to the grand excesses that sometimes occur — they don’t do anyone any good.
The culture we live in today, the one that drives people to do stupid things for the camera to feel superficial payoff, or vault themselves to the stars in the spotlight even as it steals a portion of their humanity — it’s what redefines toxicity in more ways than I feel comfortable writing about here. It’s extremely uncomfortable to see, to read about, or to be around.
And what really sucks is finding out someone has been so thoroughly victimized and wholly consumed by the process that they’ve taken their own life.
Speaking as a person who is more aware of and comfortable with death than the general populace, I think it’s not so much the fact a Hollywood star died, as it is the fact he diverged and was pulled away from a path that might have earned him peace of mind. It’s the visualization of their terror, their loss of control, their utter suffering inside, that really bothers me about these celebrity deaths. It’s the thought that maybe we, the society, are due to accept responsibility to an extent and are in some way, no matter how small, culpable for a part of that suffering.
Anyway, I get that there are going to be a shit ton of ironic Robin Williams memorials on social media in the wake of his suicide, and people are going to be talking about it in the mainstream media for a long time to come. If you’re wondering why I don’t take part, it’s partly out of respect, and partly out of the feeling that this is everything that’s wrong with fame. This applies as much in my mind to one celebrity-related event as it does any other.
A lot of people are about to use this suicide to power a variety of tasteless money-makers and boost audience viewership through various dialogues about the actor’s death. Capitalizing on someone’s death is sick too, and I prefer not to be a part of that.
If any good can be found among the tatters of this mess, and among the public’s outpouring of grief, it stands with those who can take this time to understand the narrative of Mr. Williams’ life and the gravity of the invasive, erosive, and personally damaging effects fame can have on a person. Those among us who give of themselves through the performing arts can often do so very completely, and it is when this lifestyle becomes too great a weight and they’re at their weakest, they need a shoulder to lean on. Today’s news announcement should never have happened. A life lost to fame is one life too many.
In terms of the broader dialogue that’s hopefully going to happen here, it’s worth mentioning that suicide can strike at any age. It can happen to anyone, in any walk of life, and there are a lot of myths and misunderstandings being circulated about it. Take a moment now to head over to AFSP and Lifeline and read more on the topic.