Friday, March 27, 2009

Moderately well-known star dies tragically

Tragedy garners bigger shock, sorrow than expected

British actress Natasha Richardson, best known in my memory for her performance as the mother in Lindsay Lohan’s 1998 version of The Parent Trap, died suddenly March 18 from brain injuries suffered during a beginner skiing class she was taking. While she was not necessarily a vastly known star, my reaction when I learned of her death on this morning was one of a lot more shock/ sadness than I expected to experience. Such feelings got me to thinking about celebrity deaths or tragedies in general.
I don’t know why, but it seems that with the status and function celebrities have within our society we more or less believe they are invincible and that the bad things that happen to average people like ourselves, our friends and family members do not happen to our favorite musicians, actors or authors. Of course it’s a silly concept and there’s no reason why we should think this way, but it never fails to happen.
The huge amount of visibility that the personalities, activities and personal lives of celebrities have to the public makes us feel (falsely) that they are our friends, or at least that we know some of them as well as we know some of our friends. I believe this partially contributes to our shock and sadness when people we really don’t know at all pass away.
I must confess that I find it sad and a little strange that people mourn for a famous person when they don’t even know who that person really was. Of course, I do believe that every human life deserves to be remembered and mourned, but it’s just unfortunate that we have developed a false idea of what mourning is. I don’t believe any fan of a star could really know who the person was as a human being unless they had an actual relationship with the person apart from admiring their work. And America’s intense idolization of stars of pop culture is particularly sad. It is a testimony to the fact that people are not mourning for the right reasons.
It seems that the whole issue hinges around a lapse in logic and in respect. In a perfect world, people would mourn and remember the life of a precious human being upon the death of a celebrity, rather than being shocked that someone famous and popular who led a charmed life could ever have been taken so tragically.

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