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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Dead celebs: not strange to mourn strangers

Your favorite celebrity has just died.

Sorry for dropping that bombshell. How do you feel?

Never fear, “Insert Name Here” is probably alive and well.

But imagine if they’d really died. Imagine that they could no longer produce music, create artwork or appear in the next blockbuster. How would you feel then?

Most would say they feel at least a bit sad, which is perfectly normal, but what about the ones who let the grief dominate their lives? They’ve likely never met this celebrity or developed a personal connection with them.

Don’t worry; you’re still allowed to mourn them to an acceptable extent. It’s just the “why” that’s a bit foggy.

“The issue of there being a connection with the person — which ends due to death — is a possibility,” said Christopher Lootens, assistant professor of psychology at High Point University, in an email interview.

“Whether there is a connection or not depends on the person grieving and on the celebrity.”

Indeed, it’s a case-by-case basis. Someone could be a loyal member of a celebrity’s fan base and hence know a fair bit about them, while someone else could know nothing except for their name.

Say that I am said loyal member. Despite that, I still don’t know the celebrity in person, so why would I be sad? A death is a death, yes, but millions of people die every day that we often don’t shed a tear for.

Is it simply because someone has died, or is it because I’ll no longer be able to hear or see new works from them?

“Some deaths are quite painful to accept, so the ‘death is a death’ argument isn’t very persuasive,” said Dana Professor of Psychology Richie Zweigenhaft. “You’re being deprived of future work by that person.”

Like Zweigenhaft, Lootens believes that one cause of such grief is the sudden impossibility of further contributions.

“When a celebrity dies, there’s a sense of loss of that person and the entertainment that they provide,” said Lootens. “We realize that we’ll never see a performance or a contribution from this person again, and that sense of loss can result in feeling sad and disappointed.”

That sense of loss can vary from person to person depending on what kind of effect the celebrity’s work had on them.

They could’ve made art that inspired you, films that touched you or music that comforted you, and the knowledge that they can’t provide that anymore is enough to provoke at least a bit of sadness.

It’s not uncommon to know a bit about your favorite celebrity’s life even if you’ve never actually met them. For instance, I’m a hardcore Lindsey Stirling fan. Because of a quick Google search, I know that she started taking violin lessons at age five, that she was born in 1986 and that she trained herself to dance by watching YouTube videos.

Bam — I suddenly know something about that celebrity, and that establishes a faux connection to them. But just because I know these tidbits about her doesn’t mean I know anything about who she truly was, not like I would know a parent or a close friend. Should she die, I’d be incredibly sad but not inconsolable to the point where it would impair my ability to function properly.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t be allowed to grieve for her.

“There are no rules to say who you can mourn,” said Catherine Machanic, an Early College junior. “If someone’s had an important influence on your life and they die, it’s normal to be sad about them even if you didn’t know them personally.”

So does a dead celebrity equate to, say, a dead family member? No, or at least it shouldn’t.

But that doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to some sense of loss.

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