Brian Gratwicke / Flickr
Brian Gratwicke / Flickr

Media mourning: a society obsessed with celebrity?

Ali Jones and Reece Goodall debate the posthumous publicity received by stars in 2016.


To mourn

It’s easy to say that it’s wrong of the media to pay more attention to the death of one individual than to another, or to argue that the victims of war, terror, or natural disaster deserve to be remembered with the same fervour as the celebrities whose names and faces are plastered across the world in the days following their deaths. But while every death is its own aching tragedy, some must resonate more widely than others. Death is an incredibly powerful force. For better or worse, there are few, if any, earthly phenomena able to warrant as emotive a response as death. No matter how far removed from our personal bubbles, the news of any death, no matter how distant, brings with it a sense of loss and permanent change that is nearly impossible to ignore.

To some extent, in terms of dead celebrities 2016 differs from other years in terms of sheer volume – the list of public figures who have died this year is substantial to say the least – but more important is the sense that in the last 12 months the world lost icons who over the years have empowered, inspired, and been loved by millions.

They are not mourned because they are celebrities, but because these are people who…deserve to be remembered…

If grief were something we reserved purely for our families and closest friends, the world would be an even more scary and isolated place than it can sometimes already feel. That so many choose to take a moment to pay tribute to those who have helped bring to life our best-loved stories, those who have spoken up to make sure we have our voice, those who made us laugh, or cry, or feel like we understand ourselves a little better, is one of humanity’s greatest strengths.

Were it not for the attention paid to the memories of people like David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, George Michael and Carrie Fisher, to name but a few, I would never have fully realised the good that they tried to bring to the world. They are not mourned because they are celebrities, but because these are people who, in their own way, spread joy unchanged by race, or creed, or class, across the world, and for that they deserve to be remembered.

-Ali Jones


Not to mourn

I’m not saying that celebrity deaths are don’t deserve to be covered – it would be mad to suggest the news should ignore the death of a major popstar like David Bowie – but I do dispute the level of coverage the deaths receive generates nonsense fluff coverage the news likes to talk about which is anything but news (it’s nice that George Michael paid for a woman’s IVF, but it’s not news, nor do I care which of his songs Julie from Rotherham really liked).o, 2016 has just passed and no matter what you thought of it, it would be hard to deny the sheer number of celebrity deaths that happened. You’d have been lucky to avoid it too, what with the news stuffing the famous deceased in our faces – is it just me, or is it starting to get a bit stupid?

Two celebrities I really liked were Leslie Nielsen and Peter Falk – they both died a few years ago now. They were given quick obituaries on the early morning headlines, and we’d moved onto other news stuff in the afternoon. That seems to me a justifiable level of coverage – not the fawning misery we saw last year. Focusing so much on celebrity serves also to devalue everybody else in society. For the news, celebrities are glamorous figures and the disgusting sycophancy the media exhibits just underlines how much of a pleb everybody else is.

Celebrity by definition makes these people different from us average joes, but they shouldn’t be treated as the revered gods…

Something bad happened to you – tough. Beyoncé has a cold – my God, the world needs to know! Celebrity by definition makes these people different from us average joes, but they shouldn’t be treated as the revered gods the news seems to think they are.

Tell me a celebrity has died – that’s fine. But I don’t need to know every good thing they did in their life, nor see every interview they ever had, nor hear tedious stories from members of the public about a time they met the celebrity. It’s meant to be the news, dammit, so why can’t it take its head from the collective celebrity backside and report news instead?

-Reece Goodall

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