In many ways, 2016 has been an absolute tire fire of a year. Not for me; we’re doing great. But for a lot of people, this year can’t end soon enough.
One reason 2016 has been just so miserable has been the seemingly endless onslaught of celebrity deaths. It seems like every week someone new passed away, including this very last week of the year. With just a few days left to go, everyone is counting down to 2017 and hoping no one else dies.
Is this a new phenomenon? Yes and no. Celebrities have always died. Do we just notice it more now? Maybe. Buy why? And why now, in a year so filled with turmoil?
There Have Never Been More Celebrities
Think about it. Every year, new names get added to the zeitgeist for one reason or another. Reality stars. Breakout actors. New musicians. All build fan bases that follow their every move. You connect with them on social media. You immerse yourself in their world. Then, that light goes out and you’re left with nothing. It’s happening more and more frequently.
In fact, we’re adding celebrities faster than they can pass away, this year notwithstanding. So, in terms of sheer numbers, more celebrities died in 2016 than had in the past. And for that same reason, 2017 is likely not to be any better.
But it’s not entirely about volume. We notice it more than ever, which may be due to an always-on media, or maybe the way our cultural norms have regressed recently.
Culture Is Eating Itself
At the same time as we add new stars to the lexicon, we’ve run out of new ideas. As a result, many of our cultural touchpoints are relics of the past. Almost all the highest grossing movies are sequels or remakes. TV shows are being rebooted left and right. These pure nostalgia plays point the lens of culture backward rather than forward.
Now, you can debate why this is happening endlessly. Whatever the reason, this retrospective culture notices when former stars die. Many of the people we lost were decades passed their heyday but had major roles in shaping culture to this point. We lose a piece of ourselves when we lose them, especially when there’s nothing new to look forward to on the horizon.
That makes these deaths matter more than ever. As Star Wars or Harry Potter grow in influence, shaping society as a whole, everyone who touches their universe becomes essential. Losing someone is to have a piece of that universe die as well, which hurts a lot knowing things can never go back to the way they were. The moments in time where these people were our worlds become bittersweet, because we know they can’t be replicated.
How’s that for bleak?
The Cure for Celebrity Deaths
It’s not the end of the world though. There are always new things to invest yourself in. At one time, Star Wars was just one movie that nobody knew or cared about. We give birth to new ideas every day. Focus on all that’s good and promising, rather than languishing in the past.
It’s going to hurt for a while, especially as we lose more people in 2017. After all, there are more celebrities now than there ever have been. We’re going to lose a few. Just remember the times you had together. That’s what makes life special.