This year, two beloved celebrities have passed away: David Bowie and Alan Rickman. Both died at the age of 69 from cancer. Social media exploded with posts in remembrance of these beloved stars: lyrics from David Bowie’s songs, drawings of all his different characters, and gifs of raised wands for Alan Rickman’s Severus Snape from Harry Potter. Although most of us did not know them personally, we still mourned their deaths as though we had. So why is this?
There’s this idea that in order to love someone, you need to know them. But with celebrities, it’s a little different. It’s not so much as having known the celebrity themselves, as they’ve helped you to know yourself. David Bowie inspired millions to pursue creativity. In fact, my best friend is studying special effects makeup because she was inspired by David Bowie. Alan Rickman played a character we loved to hate, and in the end, fell in love with again. His words both on and off set have shown the Harry Potter generation that it’s okay to have a complex personality.
Mourning for celebrities is not a recent trend. Despite allegations against his character, Michael Jackson was mourned by many fans when he passed away. When Robin Williams died many people took to social media to proclaim their love for him. Even Billy Mays, the OxyClean guy, was shown support after his death.
We grow up loving these people, waiting and watching to see what they will do next. Social media has increased that, as it gives us the ability to follow along with every step of their lives. This gives us a feeling of being even closer to these celebrities because we feel as though we are sharing their experiences. So even though we don’t know them, we do know everything that happens to them or that they do. And that makes a huge difference. When it comes time and they pass away, we are no longer just remembering great songs, characters, or artists. We’re remembering them as everyday people with everyday experiences. This makes it harder to say goodbye, but also makes following their time on earth all the more special to us.
So yes, we didn’t meet these people. We were never friends, or loved ones. But we are inspired by their work, and inspired by how they choose to live the lives they have been given. I’ve seen so many amazing creations the past week to honor Bowie and Rickman, artwork inspired by them that is inspiring on its own. I’ve seen so many thoughtful posts, so many people who have found what they’re passionate about through these famous names. Maybe someday, some of those mourning now will grow to inspire their own fanbase. I wouldn’t be surprised. We, as humans, are sentimental people. We hang on tightly and have a hard time letting go. And when we love someone, even a celebrity, we do it with entirety of our hearts. It is perhaps the best quality that humanity possesses.