Mourning on the Internet: Coping with Celebrity Deaths

Boiling Point

This isn’t going to be some touchy-feely deal on how to come to grips with death, because, as you may recall, I think most people overreact to celebrity deaths and for the most part you should just man the hell up and deal with it. Not that you actually have anything to deal with, since you were about as close to any celebrity as you are to the mailman. Less so, even. But if you want touched and felt up, come see me in San Diego later this week. I’ll do you right.

But that would be a rehash of my feelings if I just harped on you about growing a decent sack of testicles and not getting all sad faced that someone you never met and someone you never knew (they’re actors, after all, portraying fake characters) has passed on. I mentioned it briefly in this boiling point about things I hate and fellow Reject Kevin Carr dubbed the overflow of emotion the “Heathgasm.”

So just what the hell is this about?It’s about both sides learning to play nice with each other and moving towards the center. On one side, we have the romantics who write “with shaky hand” that someone has passed or that tweet six different “RIP” messages and a half-dozen photos that they Google searched. On the other, the cynics, the camp I’m nearest to I suppose, who point and gawk and call your affections false.

Can’t we all just get along?

And chill the shit out?

In case you hadn’t heard, Ernest Borgnine, an Academy Award winning funny man and Navy veteran, passed away on Sunday at the seasoned age of 95. If you’ve seen a movie, you’ve likely seen him, as his prodigious career spanned more than 200 roles, including turns in BASEketball, McHale’s Navy, Marty, RED, and Walker, Texas Ranger.

See that? That’s a nice, respectful paragraph. It says kind things without being overly gushy. It doesn’t make it too personal. That is how “reporting” is done. A basic retelling of the facts, with some personal flourishes when appropriate. Now, as the internet is not the most professional place in the world, we can forgive the occasional self-centeredness that comes with crying out “I am so sad this person died, it is sad they died but it is more sad that I am sad so please comfort me in my sadness.”

If you are truly hurt by the passing of a celebrity, someone you’ve never known, you might actually have some sort of mental disease. You should not be that affected by it. If you feel the need to break down and wear a single white glove after a musician dies, that’s just weird.

Granted, death sucks. Some deaths suck more. I have plenty of favorite actors. I’m a big fan of Bruce Campbell, Tom Jane, Christian Bale, Robert Downey Jr. I certainly hope they live long lives and make many films. I was (and still am) a big fan of Roy Scheider. Kind of a bummer when he died. So you say your respectful thing, you tweet your favorite Leslie Nielsen line (so long as it has nothing to do with Shirley) and then you go about your business. If your business is movie news, maybe you have another outlet and you write some sort of piece celebrating the actor’s life. Cool.

But crying over it or make a big deal about how you’re affected by the death? That’s bullshit. You know who is affected? Family and friends of the deceased. You’re most likely neither. If you died, Ernest Borgnine wouldn’t have known. He would have cared in that big, general “death is sad” kind of way, but he wouldn’t have put down his BLT lunch over it. And nor should you.

Now, to be fair, the cynics can be overly cynical about this (which is how they got their name). I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to call someone out on their bullshit, but in the seconds after a death is announced, we can all chill and let people do whatever it is they’re going to do. I’m not really affected if you’re all weepy over some celebrity death. You might clog my twitter feed and get unfollowed, but ultimately, do I really care? I care in the same way I care about bugs at a picnic. They suck, but hey, it’s a picnic. You’re annoying, but ultimately pretty harmless.

So, let’s both sides take a step back and look at the situation. We cynical bastards will attempt to understand what “emotion” is and look the other way when you get a little sentimental about a celebrity passing. In turn, you will chill the fuck out and not act like that guy you played poker with every night for 18 years just died suddenly. I mean, especially in this case -being a movie star celebrity who lives to 95? If the devil offers you that deal, you take it. (No, don’t, the devil is always just messing with you. But still, that’s a damn good life).

I don’t think that’s too cold a thing to ask. It’s perfectly acceptable to express some sort of “bummer vibe” at the death of a celebrity, because it’s the year 2012 and we share our feelings over our lunch, our bowel movements, and our haircuts. We overshare, no doubt, so over-grieving is a natural progression of people having far too many outlets to express themselves and somehow thinking that anyone actually gives a shit.

At the end of the day, you didn’t know the celebrity and your life will be no different tomorrow. I’m not a completely heartless bastard and I understand that we idolize, like, and respect actors – I get some level of sadness. Let’s all just try to be even keeled here. Cynics to the left of me, crybabies to the right – you all push me past my boiling point.

Wipe Away a Tear with More Boiling Point

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Robert Fure is many things: horror expert, ruggedly handsome man of the world, witty prose composer, and writer of his own biography page. Beneath the bravado is a scared little boy, ready to grow into an awesome man and make lies about a scared little boy inside of him. Wait a minute...

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