SAN DIEGO — Celebrity deaths, like the tragic loss of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gigi, can evoke extremely strong emotions within the public – even if for the most part Bryant and his daughter are strangers to most of us.
“It’s perfectly normal for us to develop these type of connections,’ said Bradley Bond, an Associate Professor of Communications at the University of San Diego.
Bond research partly focuses on parasocial relationships, which are defined as one sided relationship where one person is completely unaware of the other’s existence.
“We often develop strong emotional ties to individuals we’ve often never met or fictional characters that may not exist in real life, but we still feel like we know them,” said Professor Bond.
In regards to Bryant’s death, Professor Bond said “the comparison of a celebrity athlete as a superhero is an effective comparison because in a fictional world, a superhero – does not die.”
For some, the reality of Bryant’s mortality will be especially hard to come to terms with.
“I think it might actually create a particular sense of dissonance that is difficult in processing because they’re seen as people who should be bigger than that,” said Professor Bond.
Professor Bond further said that the public’s connection with Bryant and other celebrities now includes social media.
“They [the public] know what his children look like. They know his close connections to coaching their teams. They know what the inside of his home looks like because he’s sharing these glimpses into the backstage and that makes you feel like we know him even more,” Bond said.