Death in the celebrity age

Post ImageIn a recent post, Jason Kottke (who by the way, blogs for a living) raised a very interesting question, one that I had not pondered before:

Are you worried about the future glut of obituaries in national newspapers? Because I sure am. Think about it: because of our networked world and mass media, there are so many more nationally known people than there were 30, 40, or 50 years ago.

I had never really thought about that before, but I suppose it’s true. I know far more people who are considered “celebrities” than my great grandparents probably did back in their day. Jason goes on:

Frankly, I don’t know how we’re all going to handle this. Chances are in 15-20 years, someone famous whose work you enjoyed or whom you admired or who had a huge influence on who you are as a person will die each day…and probably even more than one a day. And that’s just you…many other famous people will have died that day who mean something to other people. Will we all just be in a constant state of mourning?

No, I don’t think we will. I mean, just because someone famous dies, doesn’t mean that there are millions of people who will mourn for that person. Indeed, just as celebrities enter our lives out of no where, I see no reason they cannot exit the same way. Take for example, Luther Vandross. He died at the age of 54 on Friday, and yet for most people, it’s just another news item. This is a man who released 14 albums and had each one reach platinum or multi-platinum status. Millions of people included him as a part of their lives. And yet, millions of people are not mourning. If four other people with similar levels of fame died today, would the world be any sadder? I doubt it.

Basically, there is only one Pope and personally, I think the mourning done for the Pope was extravagant, to say the least. There will always be those people who have reached a certain “celebrity” status that will be mourned by many people, but I think they will remain rare, no matter how many famous people we have.

Thinking a bit further, shouldn’t we expect the number of “celebrities” to normalize? I mean, if so many people are getting famous now, you’d think that in 15 years, it would be harder to be considered “famous”, and thus there would be less famous people.

Read: Jason Kottke