When a celebrity passes away, it dominates both the media and our timelines. Everybody wants to share their experience and influence of the deceased; they all want to feel like they were a part of something, they want to connect, to belong. I generally refrain from joining in with this pandemonium because I always believe that you don’t have to announce something for it to be real. The deceased have left their mark, but they’re no longer here to defend their own memory.
The death of celebrities is an odd thing, they are people that we did not know, and yet we cannot help to feel a sense of sadness upon hearing of their passing. It is a sign of the intrinsic emotion that connects us, the unity of feeling sadness for a stranger. One of the most prominent occasions of when I experienced the intensity of this was upon the death of Princess Diana. I was 7 years old at the time, and I remember watching the news coverage from morning until night. I watched them take the coffin on the television and it was my first real experience of death. After the burial, I realised just how bizarre the experience was. After this, the next real celebrity death was that of Michael Jackson.
His voice had filled our house since childhood and for me, his eccentricity was always intriguing. He was just a young man, trapped inside his own fame. Regardless of the accusations that were made against him, there was no solid evidence to prove him guilty, and nobody really knows what happened. Having said that, his death upset me, and I recently watched a documentary regarding his autopsy and it felt as if it was someone that I personally knew. We feel the pain of strangers, because we have an intrinsic connection to all humans.
Upon awakening, my father notified me that Robin Williams had died. It felt like another celebrity death caused by drugs, but I then heard the words ‘depression’ and ‘suicide’ and they caught my attention. For the rest of the day, I listened to people talk about depression with ignorance. But all I could think of in my head was that a man had killed himself, a man had been driven to death by his own mind. People die everyday and we have become immune to it. Hearing about death no longer breaks us, and it was only the mention of suicide that made the news, not the cause of his depression.
However for a brief period, his death foregrounded depression, and it felt like this could be an opportunity to bring awareness to it. It felt like this was the moment that people would realise the severity of mental illness and come to accept it. There was an opportunity of hope, and everyone suffering felt for the brevity of a moment, that their voices would be heard.
And then it passed.