Awful reactions to celebrity deaths reflect poorly on all of us

Death is a weird thing. Whether it takes five years or five seconds, it is often shocking how quickly it happens and how many surrounding lives can be affected when just one is lost. While any and all death is unpleasant and unsettling, the news of a celebrity’s death — much like his or her entire preceding life — is amplified and overexposed.

On Saturday, the world lost Paul Walker, best known for his role in “The Fast and the Furious” franchise.

Death is death. Not one of us can escape it, regardless of how many people know our names.

My apologies for that existential reality check, but it is self-evident. So, for all intents and purposes, Walker is another lost life amongst countless others who might have happened to pass away in the same 60 seconds here in America (cheery, I know.)

So what makes an ASU student on their phone at a football game turn into an emotional victim to this loss? When the news first broke, people were asking, “Who’s Paul Walker?” and in their same second of realization, gasped, “Oh my gosh, that is SO sad!”

Of course, they’d then proceed to wish him a peaceful rest on Twitter.

I get that any sort of familiar face, regardless of levels of fame or lack thereof, being wiped off the face of the earth is surreal in some kind of way, but is there a point—perhaps in death, perhaps not — when a celebrity deserves silence and normalcy? I’d like to think so.

On one side of the spectrum we’ve got status updates, tweets and Facebook communities dedicated to a man who most, if not every last one, of those people would not have been able to name without the “Fast and Furious” association. This is a little perturbing in its own right, but at least there’s a pinch of good intention.

However, on the other end, the Internet has had a way of turning a human being’s much too premature death into a parody. As The State Press’ editorial board mentioned earlier this week in its weekly “Boos & Bravos,” many have taken it upon themselves to point out the very obvious, yet very lame to point out, so-called “irony” of “The Fast and the Furious” star dying in a car accident. Brian O’Connor wasn’t the one in the car: Paul Walker was.

Fast-forward to today and the tweets have slowed, the articles shared on Facebook have ceased and a man’s death is placed in the “old news” category in less than a week.

The Internet is the only place where debris of a devastating blow can appear and be swept up without a trace in 48 hours. Hopefully we won’t see any “ironic” costumes after this one. Rest in peace, Paul Walker. May those close to you stay far away from the Web.

 

 

Reach the columnist at haley.tonetti@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @haleytonetti.