7 – Larger Than Life But Not Bigger Than Death

I promised myself that I would not add to the frenzy over a recently-deceased singer, but I just can’t help myself.  The king of pop shall remain nameless because this column is not really about him, but rather the millions of people who actually believed they had a relationship with him.

Upon the news of his death, hundreds of people flooded the streets.  More than 750,000 people attended a public memorial service in downtown Los Angeles. Another 31.1 million watched the elaborate sendoff on TV, and millions more watched online.  Feeding the frenzy both before and after the memorial show were countless hours of media time devoted to his life and death, complete with commentary that elevated the man to sainthood.

But enough about him.  It is the distraught mourners that I want to talk about.  When Princess Diana was killed in an auto accident, I remember feeling a sense of disbelief.  She was a woman who had everything.  She was a princess, for pete’s sake.  She was young and beautiful and the accident was so sudden that I found myself drawn to the news coverage. After several days I caught an interview with a woman on the street, a rather plain young woman dressed in simple work clothes.  Between sobs she stated that she and Princess Di had so much in common.  They were both single mothers, she explained.  And there you have it – the “relationship” that adoring fans have with celebs.  The young woman had about as much in common with Princess Di as I have with a Dead Sea scroll.  It was then that I stopped watching.

Now when I see people mourning the death of celebrities, I can’t help but wonder if these folks shed as many tears for friends or family who have passed away.

We make celebrities larger-than-life and we don’t expect them to die.  In your reality and my reality, they are little more than a congregation of pixels, images on TV screens, and ink on the paper of tabloids and magazines.  They seem to have everything, why not immortality, too?

According to psychologists, the less connected people feel, the more they turn to celebrities to fill the void of not having complete relationships with real people … the kind of relationships that demand our time and attention, the kind that we can’t just walk away from by logging off, muting the TV or recycling a magazine.  Complete relationships bring both joy and pain to our lives, and they require a powerful amount of work.

I hope when the frenzy dies down the millions who mourned the king of pop will turn their time and emotions to the people in their lives who really matter.


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