The recent death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant has left many fans and everyday people heartbroken, but some people say they should not be mourning the loss of someone they never even met.
Nicole Noble, an assistant professor in the College of Education, said due to the sudden nature and unpredictability of some celebrities’ deaths, it can have a much bigger impact on everyday lives because no one sees it coming and is left in shock. The age of the person who died also has a big effect on people because, young or old, they think the celebrity will live forever.
“The way the news unfolds can also make it more tragic in a way,” she said, “but it also opens up a platform to discuss the celebrity’s life and how they died, whether it was based on mental health issues or another reason.”
Just because a person did not know a celebrity personally does not mean it does not affect them, Noble said. The best thing to do in these times of grief is to seek out support and talk to other people about the loss and how it affects them.
“(People) need to acknowledge that their pain is okay and understand that, again, due to the nature of the death, sometimes these deaths can be triggering with certain events,” she said. “They just need to know that healing takes time”
Isaiah Valverde, a senior creative media industries major from El Paso, said he understands why people get upset when a celebrity dies, especially if the celebrity meant a lot to that person, but sometimes people can take their mourning too far.
“When these deaths happen, it kind of humanizes the celebrities in a way because they’re these figures, these icons, but then once they’re gone, you’re like, ‘Oh, man, like, this is all real,’” he said. “But you also shouldn’t like, shut down completely. Like if they were a family member, you should be able to move on and celebrate their legacy and not just allow yourself to slip into depression over somebody (you have) never met before.”
Valverde said one celebrity death that affected his life was Michael Jackson’s death, because not only were a lot of his family members sad, but he said he found it troubling because Jackson’s legacy was immediately tested after his death.
All of the allegations about both Michael Jackson and Kobe Bryant came out immediately after both of their deaths, which Valverde said is tough because there is not a good time to ever bring events such as those up.
“It’s tough to go through it because it’s like, when is the right time to talk about those things, you know? Like, they just recently died, people really shouldn’t be attacking the legacy like that, like, ‘Oh, are they really the icon that they were?’” he said. “It’s kind of like, ‘Why are you bringing it up again?’”
Glenn Cummins, an assistant professor in journalism and creative media industries, said it is fascinating to him that people form such strong bonds and feel so impacted by the death of someone they have never actually met. People form close ties with people they follow very closely, so they come to feel like they personally know the celebrities even though the relationship is just a product of repeated exposure attached through television, film, print and social media.
However, Cummins said he thinks the sense of loss is just as genuine, even though it is not someone they have actually met. There is a space in peoples’ lives that needs to be filled, and, although it is different from the loss of an actual, immediate relative or loved one, there is a loss of contact.
“We no longer will get to see this person again, will no longer get to read about what that person is doing,” he said. “And so, we grieve and mourn that loss even though it’s with someone that we don’t ever actually see face-to-face. The emotional bond is just as strong and just as present.”
From his perspective, Cummins said the celebrity deaths that bothered him the most are the ones that remind him of his own mortality. When Tom Petty died, he said it shook him to his core, but also reminded him he is not the high school or college student he used to be.
“When I see someone that I listened to and enjoyed for so many decades, and now that person’s gone, it reminds me of again, the passage of time and my own aging. And I’m getting to that point in my life where I’m seeing more and more of that, people that I grew up listening to, the people I listened to in college have started passing and man, even if I don’t have a strong emotional tie to them, it scares me,” he said. “And again, I feel that same sense of loss and sadness in that we’ll never get to hear the new Tom Petty CD. I’ll never get to hear the new thing that Prince was working on. They’re people I enjoyed, and they’re gone.”