All these deaths

Carrie Fisher’s death has just been announced.

I read an article this spring that argued we’ve now gotten to a point, chronologically, where popular culture was a legitimate matter of personal concern — so that we’re going to see a generation and a half, essentially 30 years or so, of mainstream pop cultural heroes dying, which will only end when the celebs came out of the niche markets of the 90s and afterward. And of course, there are a lot of baby boomers, so there are a lot of them to die.

But I think I realized today what’s bugging me is that I have a particular understanding of the world that was formed in the 70s and 80s that encompasses various things — not just pop culture, but also politics, religion, and so on — and every time a witness to that the world leaves us, I realize how endangered important aspects of that world are. When the people who actually remember disappear, everyone else falls victim to nostalgia and a remembrance of things past that no one at the time would have accepted.

Good bye, Carrie Fisher. May the force be with you.

~ by Servetus on December 27, 2016.

18 Responses to “All these deaths”

  1. For me, a lot of these deaths are happening to those who are still pretty young. Plus, a lot of these deaths are occurring to those I grew up with.

    • “to those I grew up with” — yes, this is what I meant by “a witness to that world.”

      • That’s it exactly. For instance, if Debbie Reynolds had died, I would feel nostalgic for things I grew up watching on weekend afternoons, Tammy, Singin’ in the Rain, and so many others. For her daughter to die, is first of all the wrong order, and second, she is my generation. She was younger than one of my sisters, and the same age as the other. It’s a very weird feeling when the pop icons of my own time are dying off. If for no other reason than it chips away at my own mortality.

        • So many people have passed this year who are around my age, although Carrie Fisher was younger. Because they were a part of my coming of age, their deaths have given me a sense of my own approaching mortality.
          And now Carrie’s mother Debbie Reynolds has also died. She is much older than I am but I grew up watching her movies.
          I feel like my childhood, teens, 20s, and 30s are slipping away.

  2. Ich fand sie immer ganz reizend.

    • I loved her sense of humor — Postcards from the Edge is so brutally (funny). And I loved her response when she got flak for not being young and beautiful recently.

  3. I was pondering that question, too, and I realised that we are perceiving 2016 as a year with a disproportionate number of high-profile deaths because many of these celebrity deaths were people who were or became prominent stars at at time when the world developed celebrity culture, coinciding with/caused by the advent of cable TV, internet, globalisation, and the growth of a world-wide entertainment industry. The older ones of those stars, are now nearing old(er) age (Bowie, Cohen, Rickman… can’t remember all the names), others have been plucked by death before their time but were major stars at a time when the above exploded. Will it be like this for the next decade or two? Or will it continue like this? In any case, it’s also a long good-bye for us, who remember many of them from our formative years. Upsetting.
    In case of Fisher – I was not really very aware of her until a few years ago. But I liked her directness. I only just watched her on Graham Norton (last week? was she on her way back from the taping of the show in London when she had her heart attack on the plane?), and I couldn’t believe the bad news. Sad!

    • Well, the article I read argued that it would lessen for most people because of the way that cable television, changes in the movie industry, and then the internet have changed entertainment. Essentially there’s a 30-40 year period (1950-1990 are its broadest parameters) in which there was a broadly shared popular culture / consumption pattern in the West along with the necessary leisure and affluence to enjoy them. There are still mainstream mega-celebs after that, but not so many, went the argument. The death of someone like (say) Trent Rezner will not have the same shock effect as Michael Jackson’s death did because the niche artists that characterized the period after the beginning of the 1990s never reached these huge audiences. Artists with a reach like (say) Taylor Swift are now much rarer. I found it convincing.

      Sorry I can’t post the link — I looked for it for a while and could not find it.

      Fisher — like George Michael, she was probably the victim of heavy drug use earlier in her life. (I don’t know, but I assume based on her books.)

      • She mentioned drugs, recently. but then she also had to lose considerable weight for the new Star Wars film, which wouldn’t be healthy either. Who knows… It’s yet another shock, since a lot of the people who have died during the last two years weren’t necessarily at an age when it didn’t come as a surprise.

        And yes, some of the shock comes from people I grew up with, and several of whom I enjoyed and admired, dying. I guess apart from the loss involved, both of the individual and what they were still creating (films, music etc.), it also makes you all the more aware of your own mortality.

      • Sounds like a convincing argument. I never thought about it like that, but it rings true that we have splintered culture into niches. Not a bad thing imo.
        And yes, drug abuse may be responsible for a number of celebrity deaths this year. Prince also comes to mind…

  4. 😦 My husband just rang me ..

  5. My brother in law died a couple of weeks ago, aged 55. He was a previously healthy man and died due a set of circumstances that beggar belief. Even the consultant who cared for him said he shouldn’t have died- that he should have been able to help and that every time the medical team thought they were getting on top of it a new complication frustrated them. The last few weeks have been an exhausting roller coaster and in amongst it has been the famous names also dying – most notably for Mr Bolly and I, George Michael. We discussed how it feels to be shocked and saddened at the passing of a celebrity in the midst of a family tragedy, and whilst the two cannot compare, we did conclude that it’s okay to feel grief for the celebrity too because they touched our lives. It’s not the same but there should be no rights or wrongs around grieving – it is what it is and it is different at different moments.

    As to the question about whether this phenomenon is unique to our generation – it’s an interesting question. I would say that it might be – the pre World Wide Web era meant our icons were universal – unless you lived under a rock you could not fail to be aware of George Michael in the 1980’s because of his exposure in the mainstream media, which was all we had. But now we can have niche markets – RA is an example of someone with a huge fan base but who is still largely unknown outside of that. I also compare the death of George Michael with that of Freddie Mercury – to my mind they have the same level of fame, however the outpouring of grief for Michael has been muted compared with Mercury. Perhaps that is because of the change in media, or perhaps that can be put down to Mercury dying of a disease that was scaring the bejesus out of us all back then. Perhaps we are all more cynical now.

    I’m not sure if that makes sense ( it does in my head but I’m very tired, jet lagged, emotionally fragile…) but at the end of the day it is just terribly sad to hear someone has died before their time. It reminds us of our vulnerability and that our place on earth for 3 score years and 10 cannot be guaranteed.

    • First, I’m very sorry for your family at this horrible time, made worse by trying to carry on in the holiday season. George Michael was 53, same as I am. That means, that the year I graduated high school, and MTv come into being, with it’s HUGE cultural influence in the early years was filled with George Michael. As I said above, it leaves a feeling that is not quite identifiable, much like when people you went to school with die. It’s just unsettling.

  6. I was relieved when they said yesterday she was in stable condition, and I thought she would make it. But hope is a treacherous thing 😦 May the force be with you, Princess!

  7. It is always sad to see someone go before their time and I think it really hits home to us our own mortality. Amazing how close we become to people we “grow up” with thru the media. But you do and you feel a loss when they go and they leave a hole when you hear about it. it takes you back on a journey in time. It is always sad and each year we lose many from the entertainment industry. Bottom line is none of us have a guarantee of the number of years we each have ( in cat years I have used 2) and I figure if my 3rd comes up it won’t be up to me. it is all a crap shoot and we just don’t know. But I do feel sorry for all the family and friends of those who pass on, it is always harder for those left behind. They always have my thoughts & prayers.

  8. Neben allem Persönlichem und Tragischen, was hier schon gesagt wurde, geht mir besonders dieses nicht aus dem Sinn, und deshalb möchte ich es auch nochmals zitieren:
    “And every time a witness to that the world leaves us, I realize how endangered important aspects of that world are. When the people who actually remember disappear, everyone else falls victim to nostalgia and a remembrance of things past that no one at the time would have accepted.”
    Mit diesen Aspekten, die man auch ganz einfach Zeitgeist nennen könnte (um sowohl die politischen und kulturellen Strömungen abzudecken), sind wir nicht nur aufgewachsen sondern sie “gehören” uns. Wir wollen wahrscheinlich nicht, dass man sie uns nimmt? Wir haben ja das Copyright drauf 😉 Vielleicht auch – jetzt aber mehr in einem ernsteren und/oder historischeren Sinne – dass viele Zeitzeugen “ihre” Geschichte erzählen wollen? Mir spuken zur Zeit viele solcher Dinge sowohl persönlicher als auch allgemeiner, weltlicher Art im Kopfe herum, die ich nicht nur mit Nostalgie einer 45 Jahre alten Frau abtun werde. Früher haben sich immer mal wieder Türen geschlossen, doch es fällt mir schwer im Augenblick frohen Herzens ins nächste Zimmer zu treten, denn ich sehe keine offene Tür, die sich auftut.
    Herzliche Grüße von einer nachdenklichen Andrea

    • I wanted to write a longer reply to this comment, which is really smart, but I ran out of steam. Thank you for making it, though; I thought about it for a long time.

  9. Thanks for all the great comments on this thread.

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