I HAD to laugh recently when Twitter declared war on cancer, but I do appreciate the sentiment.
Cancer does suck and not just because lately it has been taking down too many of our celebrities. Cancer affects normal people too.
I doubt that it’s something in the air or water, apart from all the deadly planet and people-killing chemicals, but 2016 so far does seem to be the year of the celebrity death.
David Bowie and Alan Rickman have already joined the 69 club, and do you know who else is 69? Donald Trump, but the prospective presidential candidate will live on because there’s no way Trump’s getting into any club where Bowie and Rickman are on the guest list.
Also this year we’ve farewelled Lemmy from Motorhead and now the Eagles’ co-founder, singer and songwriter, Glenn Frey, has passed along, among others.
None of it has been particularly upsetting to me beyond, “Oh that’s sad, let’s check out a clip from one of their songs and/or movies”.
Any time another big name drops, however, my Facebook feed explodes with grief. Which I react to by morbidly scanning for the how and why, then return to reading preseason football news.
Most of the time, I also learn way more about the person who has just passed away than I ever knew before. Which explains my initial lack of concern.
But recently, I’ve noticed people going nuts over other people’s grief, yelling that they aren’t entitled to it, or are somehow grieving the wrong way and it’s completely ruined their flat white.
It’s like a kid dropping an ice cream and crying.
Then a crowd of strangers start shouting at that kid for caring about the ice cream at all. Except that the ice cream is a person who’s often made phenomenal contributions to the artistic world.
The haters seem to be saying that if you didn’t personally know the person, you’re not entitled to be upset about their death. That’s also tinged with an undercurrent of suspicion that people are using a celebrity’s death to draw attention to themselves.
One quick way check to see if you’re grief is genuine is this: how many times have you counted the likes, shares and retweets you’ve received?
And how happy are they making you? Well, someone has just died, you creep.
Also, just because a celebrity didn’t know you doesn’t mean that you didn’t know them.
In our celebrity-obsessed world, many of us know celebrities better than the real people in our lives. And that is incredibly sad, but becomes less so when you realise that those who’ve recently passed away were not primarily known for being famous, but for the art that made them famous.
We’re grieving for the loss of people who have contributed to our personal understanding of this mess we call a society, and our place in it, and that’s something definitely worth being upset about.
Really, I don’t know what to post on social media any more. You talk about what a nice holiday you had and people accuse you of glorifying your crappy life.
Then you post that you’re upset about a celebrity’s death and people tell you that you’re grieving wrong and you should say something interesting or keep it to yourself.
The only two things nobody complains about anyone posting are:
1) Videos of people hurting themselves.
So it must follow that if a cat watches someone trip over a TV showing Alan Rickman in a Harry Potter movie, with Bowie’s music in the background, and that cat suddenly passes away, the internet will explode.
Don’t ask why. The internet, that’s why.
Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian.
His second comedy memoir ‘Going Out of My Mined’ is available now.