Tag Archives: Celebrities

Why Mourn?

The year has been a terrible one for celebrity deaths: Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Merle Haggard, now Prince. The last one hit particularly hard with me. Prince was the music of my difficult and lonely teenage years. I admired him. I loved his music. I thought and think he was a musical genius on par with the historic greats. And it’s been cathartic and touching to see the tributes springing up all over the world and know that I wasn’t alone in thinking that; that millions of people did get how great he was.

Every time the world mourns a celebrity, however, people ask why we do so. After all, it’s not like we knew them personally. Why shed tears — even metaphorical ones — over a stranger?

This tweet explains it better in 140 characters than I will in many more words.

In one of Stephen King’s non-fiction books, he describes writing as an act of telepathy. When you write a piece of fiction, you are using words to put what’s in your head into the reader’s head. If I write, “There was a room with table” you get an image in your head. And, if I’m a good writer, you get something close to the image I had in my head when I wrote those words.

This act of telepathy applies to more than just writers. Artists, musicians, actors … all of them perform acts of telepathy. It’s a bit more subtle since they work in a visual or auditory medium. But it’s the same principle: trying to evoke images or feelings or ideas through an act of telepathy.

We let artists into our head. We have, indirectly, a very intimate relationship with them. People will talk of books or songs or movies that spoke to them. And that’s true in a very literal sense. And if an artist is particularly brilliant, they will sometimes reveal things about us we didn’t know or put us in touch with feelings or ideas we were unfamiliar with. And we share this intimacy with everyone else who has felt spoken to.

So no I don’t think there’s anything wrong with mourning an artist or an actor who has died. Because sometimes we really are very close to them in a way that truly matters.


MSNBC has a fantastic article on the “more fame than talent club“. So I just know you want my opinion:

  • Jessica Alba. OK, she’s not that good an actress. But I don’t really care. She can be good given the right role – she was the only reason to watch Dark Angel and was very sexy in Sin City. But she needs to put some weight on. She’s gotten way too skinny.
  • Jessica Biel. Agreed, but she was effective in The Illusionist. Another actress who picks bad movies.
  • Jessica Simpson. I don’t even think she’s that hot. She looks like a barbie doll.
  • Adrian Grenier. To be honest, I don’t know who the hell this is.
  • Elton John. Perhaps today, but the man has been show business for decades. Give me a break. I don’t like his music either but the man is an icon.
  • Nicole Kidman. I have to think about this one. Kidman is supposed to be this great actress. But I actually think she just picks really good movies to be in. I don’t think I’ve ever watched on of her movies and said, “Wow, Nicole made that movie!” My aussie wife will now kill me.
  • Carlos Mencia. Oh, abso-fricking-lutely. He is making a career out of being politlcally incorrect. He’s sometimes funny. But he’s an infamous joke-stealer and, once you get past the shock value, not that funny after all.
  • John Travolta. Don’t get me started.
  • Renee Zellweger. I have to agree with this one. Her career is one of the more unfortunate things to come out of that repulsive Jerry Maguire film. At least Cuba Gooding, Jr. has charisma if not talent. But, funny me, I think acting involves more elements than making squinty faces. I will, however, say, that Zellweger was great in Bridget Jones’ Diary. If they wanted to give her an oscar, that was the film.
  • There are many times I could add to that list, if I weren’t gooned on cold medication. Ben Affleck is a name that immediately jumps to mind. Michael Bay is another. Martin Lawrence. Richard Gere. Sandra Bullock. So many pretty not-so-talented people; so little time until I have to give my talk tomorrow.