Dazed & confused: Celebrity death culture is bullshit

“Celebrities are people too!”

“Celebrities are people too!”

That’s the common refrain I’ve heard over the years about my complete and total disregard for the feelings of people I’ve never met. I don’t argue the point. For my purposes, it doesn’t really matter.

I don’t care when a celebrity dies. Not ever. In fact, I actively try to remain as unsympathetic as possible.
Considering that the Michael Jackson stroke-off This Is It was No. 1 at the box office last weekend, it seems most Americans don’t feel the same way I do.

See, when a celebrity dies or is dying, something weird happens. Americans become big, slobbering hypocrites. And maybe that isn’t so odd, considering our generally facile lifestyle, but the abrupt switch is jarring. The outpouring of empathy and sadness is nothing more than an illustration of our crippling inability to connect with the people around us. We project in all the wrong ways.

Of all the stories I’ve written in the Vanguard about pop culture, those that received the most attention—or at least feedback—suggest this basic thesis.

When I wrote that I didn’t care that Patrick Swayze had cancer, I was lambasted with over 40 online comments, some of which literally wished for my death. They were mad when I said Swayze’s resurgence in fame this year was mainly based around the fact that he was dying.

But it’s undeniably true. The amount of sympathy and attention we give celebrities can be proportionally tied to how public their dying or deaths are.

For the record, these are some dead people I don’t care about:

• Michael Jackson, a psyche broken by fame

• Billy Mays, a junk salesman who died of a junk overdose

• Farah Fawcett, a ’70s bombshell

• Heath Ledger, a great actor with drugs

• Et-fucking-cetera.

To be clear: I never wished these people dead, and I’m not happy they’re dead. I just don’t care. Their deaths cannot have an effect on me because I did not know them, not even a little, and to pretend otherwise would be a lie.

When people pretend they are sad after a celebrity dies, or publicly mourn someone they’ve never known in any way but through media reports, what they’re really saying is that they’re sad death exists, and that’s unreasonable.

When you get upset that Michael Jackson is dead, you’re being unreasonable.

What about empathy for the families, you say? Fair enough. Losing a loved one is hard. But when my grandma died, Janet Jackson shed no tears. And y’know what? I thought nothing less of her for it.

Substituting fake relationships for real ones is no excuse for being delusional.

The next time a celebrity dies and you feel the need to grieve for no good reason, I have a plan. Open up to the obituary section of your local newspaper. Pick a random dead person. Visit their funeral. Grieve.

If you don’t feel ridiculous, you’re not doing it right. Celebrity death culture is bullshit.