There’s a starman waiting in the sky. He’d like to come and meet us, but he thinks he’d blow our minds.
On Monday morning, I logged on to Instagram and saw a post that said David Bowie had passed away. All day, my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds were flooded with kind words and tributes to the starman.
Today feels similar. I woke up and read two texts that said Alan Rickman had died from cancer. Once again, people are typing ‘rest in peace’ and posting pictures, sending their love and prayers to his family and friends.
Very rarely do I feel saddened and hurt by the death of a celebrity. I can count from memory the celebrity deaths that truly hit home for me. I don’t watch a lot of movies, and so I am not very familiar with many actors who pass away. Most of the artists I admire are still alive, or have died before I was born, and so I have never truly experienced what hundreds of thousands of fans went through with artists like Elvis or Jimi Hendrix or Kurt Cobain. Usually, when I hear that a celebrity has died, I feel sad in the resigned sort of way most people feel when they watch the news. Sure, it’s sad, but it doesn’t hurt.
But David Bowie and Alan Rickman are different.
There is a part of me that says I should not be so sad. After all, I didn’t know either of them. I still have Bowie’s music and the Harry Potter movies; it’s not like their deaths will affect my life in any sort of tangible way.
Yet, here I am, posting everything I can on social media and blogging about it.
Why? Why is it that we feel so hurt by something occurring so far away?
There is so much more happening in the world. I know this. I know that there are countless wars and starving children and people on the streets. I know that I could be doing something more ‘productive’ with my time instead of writing this and wallowing in sadness.
In college, I took a religion class where we discussed this very phenomenon. My professor argued that fandom–whether it be sports or another aspect of pop culture–could be considered a religion, and she took it further by pointing out how intense fans can be when a celebrity dies. Most of my classmates agreed that paying tributes to people you have never met was pointless, and that they didn’t understand why people lined up for Michael Jackson’s funeral.
Like I said before: I have felt hurt when celebrities pass away–it just isn’t very often. But even then, I disagreed with the idea that mourning an artist was pointless. To be honest, I just thought my class was trying to act like they were above things like caring about famous people.
Yeah, whatever, dude. You are not better than me because I was bummed about Micheal Jackson and you weren’t.
In a way, we did know David Bowie. We knew Alan Rickman and Robin Williams and Michael Jackson because we grew up watching them perform or hearing them sing. We were inspired by them and comforted by them when we felt utterly alone.
David Bowie kept me company on car rides and long work days. He was wonderful and weird, and people who are wonderful and weird are always my favorite kind of people.
Alan Rickman brought a character from my favorite series to life and affected my interpretation of Severus Snape for good. I listened to a recording of him reading Shakespeare when I was searching for audiobooks to download. He kept me company, too.
Is it really so bad to mourn people who have found their way into our hearts?
Finding artists we connect with is rare, and it is a blessing–and that is why, even though we have never met them, it still feels like a loss.
It is not wrong to love someone for their work, or to feel sad when that bit of magic is gone from earth. But as J.K Rowling has said before, those we love never really leave us.
We have the songs and films to prove it.
Rest in peace, Ziggy. Rest in peace, Professor. We’ll see you again someday. ❤