I Feel Awkward When Celebrities Die

Steve Jobs, no doubt, was a celebrity. The tech genius who innovated Apple’s products into what he hailed as “revolutionary,” died on October 5, 2011. My reaction was, what? Steve Jobs is dead? Unless someone is fairly old, we never expect them to die… but the shock stopped there. I felt strange and regretful that I didn’t feel any worse.

Is it WRONG not to really care? It’s not that… I don’t care that he’s dead. But… should I feel personally sorrowful about it or merely sympathetic toward others?

What about all the poor American children that might not get to experience his next innovation in IPods? What about his family and co-workers? Shouldn’t I feel a lot worse about his death? I mean, Jobs is a pretty big deal.

But I think it’s generally normal to not feel anything about the death of a celebrity. These people, we’ve never met them before. They’re an enigma to us, unknown and somehow all-powerful. So when we hear about their deaths, we feel the same way we do when our friends report that their hamster has passed away. Of course we sympathize and feel badly for our friend, but… it was not our hamster.

I don’t even own any Apple products. In fact, Mac users tend to be overly pompous because of their shiny little toys. I only know Steve Jobs’ face and voice, but I wasn’t close to him. We weren’t pen pals or cousins. Sometimes, though, we

The worst case of this someone-died-but-I-didn’t-really-know-them was the death of Michael Jackson. This is when you might hate me, so hold on.

It’s just… I really enjoy Michael Jackson’s music and he had some killer dance moves, but I didn’t know the guy. I was not emotionally invested in Michael Jackson, so when he died, sure, I felt sorry for his family, but… I was not broken. Others, however, were very broken. Jackson became a huge comeback among teens who were not alive during his prime. Because after someone is dead, their sainthood is established. Their circle of friends suddenly explodes.

Everyone starts claiming how close they were to a dead celebrity, how much they adored him or her. Look at how many magazines treated Amy Winehouse’s death. Before she died, she was easily a go-to girl for gossip columns. Just look at that crazy bad hair day or look at that cellulite-slumped bikini. The media pokes fun and bashes celebrities until… Amy Winehouse becomes suddenly a revolutionary artist. In death, every person’s infamy becomes their fame.

What I’m really saying is… I hope the Jobs family is consoled in these times. But I’m not going to console some teenager, because look, you’ll still be able to use your little IPhone. Apple will still be around, for sure. This isn’t a blog lamenting his death, because I didn’t know him. Those who loved him, they will lament his death. He was a technical giant, yes, and for that, he should be remembered.

Why do you think so many people attach themselves emotionally to celebrities they don’t really know?


3 thoughts on “I Feel Awkward When Celebrities Die

  1. Well said, Derek. People live vicariously through “celebs” and the media. It’s as if their own lives are either too boring or miserable and they just want to focus on something/someone else. Plus, most people LOVE drama. Death makes for great drama. Especially “premature” death (as if death came before it “should”).

    I Imagine the genius behind the mega-industry of Apple is did not die with Jobs. You’re right that Michael Jackson’s unique genius died with him, but maybe it was fading with all the drugs and whatnot.

    Personally I’m less concerned with one man named Jobs and more concerned with the millions of people who are worried about their jobs. But, yes, I empathize with the Jobs’ family…

  2. Because we’re humans. We sympathize about a person’s death because we know how terrible it feels for the love ones they left behind. Perhaps that’s the same for celebrities. Behind the fame, they do have people who truly care about them. And maybe, in certain cases, we are touched by these personalities to evoke such emotion. Like Steve Jobs, for example, the grief and longing may not really be about the great brain he could add on future iPods, iPhones, or whatever but on how he had lived his life making choices, chasing dreams, and striving hard that made him so inspiring. Because not everyone has the same guts of taking risk and living life. That’s for me personally. 🙂

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