by Renee Kray
While it is true that someone dies every day, it is not every day that the entire world takes notice.
High profile lives mean a high profile death, with the social world buzzing the moment that a famous person is announced to have died. The recent loss of Leonard Nimoy, an actor most famous for his portrayal of Spock on the original Star Trek television series, is a perfect example. When news of his death on February 27 was released, the response was immediate and it was everywhere. Signature character phrases such as “Live long and prosper” as well as photos of the late actor began trending on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Artists released memorial pieces, and articles summarizing Nimoy’s famous life began popping up across internet homepages.
This response is hardly a unique one, as the world has seen the likes of it before. The sudden deaths of Michael Jackson in 2009 and Whitney Huston in 2012 provoked similar reactions of sorrow and remembrance. When Robin Williams took his own life in 2014 the world mourned and continues to do so, with images of his famous character, Genie from Aladdin, still appearing online along with memorial quotes.
But should the world really care as much as it does? For every celebrity that dies there are thousands of unknown people who are lost to poverty, starvation, and murder every day. In the middle east turmoil reigns supreme, with the terrorist group ISIS displacing, capturing, and murdering Christians as well as other religious and political groups. Disturbing photographs of beheadings are uploaded by ISIS almost constantly, and the New York Times reported in February that “the reports are like something out of a distant era of ancient conquests: entire villages emptied, with hundreds taken prisoner, others kept as slaves; the destruction of irreplaceable works of art; a tax on religious minorities, payable in gold.” A genocide is occurring, and yet the world is more distracted by the fact that Mr. Spock has been beamed up into the next realm than they are with the thousands of butchered people in the middle east.
So the question becomes, what is the appropriate response to this? As Christians, as informed individuals, but mostly as fellow human beings…what type of priority should we personally be placing on the events that are going on around us?
There are two schools of thought that try to answer this question. The first is one that seeks to prioritize events according to how they affect the world. So basically, terrorism is important; the death of one celebrity, not so much. The response given by this first group of thinkers would therefore be that we should only care about the priorities and we should not care at all when we hear the news of celebrity’s passing because it is not important in the grand scheme of things. The title blogger of Raymmar.com wrote in his article “Robin Williams Dead: Why I Don’t Care and Neither Should You”: “If I had my way, no one would care whether…another comedian dies today or even tomorrow.”
It can certainly seem correct at an initial glance…shouldn’t we care more about the actual problems, the people who are dying for a real cause instead of a famous person who died rich? Of course we should; common sense demands it. To believe that the death of one individual with whom none of us had a personal friendship is on the same level as a mass genocide of humanity is madness. But that still doesn’t make the statement “I don’t care and neither should you” justified.
Aren’t celebrities human, too? Clearly, the answer is yes. As fellow humans, we should feel the sadness of a loss of life, whether they were rich or poor. And it is undeniable that celebrities have major impacts on our individual lives. Spock was a favorite character to many fans, and that is why the death of Leonard Nimoy was such a universally mourned event. It doesn’t mean that the world stopped turning, or that ISIS lost importance by humans mourning for another human they admired.
This is the second school of thought, and the one which this author feels is the most applicable: balance. Yes, the death of one celebrity is not a priority, but is it wrong to mourn a loss just because worse things are happening? Of course not. If for no other reason than respect for the passing of another human being, we should not dismiss a death as unimportant and the right to mourn should not be denied to fans who felt that person’s influence in their lives. In February I myself remembered one of my favorite celebrities, New Zealand actor Kevin Smith, on the anniversary of his death. This didn’t mean that I forgot about the worldwide disasters, but I allowed myself to have respect and sorrow for both events.
In my opinion, the memory of a celebrity on the event of their deaths is not a bad thing. While we must remember that there are more important things going on in the world, there is no reason why we cannot honor a deceased celebrity and feel sorrow for the evils of the world at the same time. Priority places the important events foremost in our minds and concerns, but it doesn’t demand that we focus on those alone.