Maybe we shouldn’t blame 2016 for all the celebrity deaths and general calamity that have occurred during the past 12 months. People die all the time, famous or not, and it has little to do with the calendar year or any superstitious nonsense. And maybe we should all spend a bit more time mourning the innocent lives lost in Aleppo and less time grieving over celebrities. Maybe.
But the heart does not always heed logic. So I’ll mourn those who have touched my life, even if their deaths were less than tragic. I think that is a rational, human response. And I’ll blame this shitty year for all the shitty things that happened during it. I don’t care much if that is a rational response or just a convenient one, I’m still doing it.
You never know which deaths are going to hurt the most. I’ve lost family members, friends, and acquaintances. Some personal losses hurt more than others, and it is the same with celebrity or public-figure deaths. I was sad when Alan Rickman died, and David Bowie, and George Michael. I am sad today, hearing of Carrie Fisher’s passing. I’m also sad to read on social media so many posts proclaiming the foolishness of feeling bad over celebrity deaths.
It made me think about “why.” Why am I sad about Carrie Fisher but not Zsa Zsa Gabor? I suppose for the same reason I’m sad about George Michael but not (as much) Leonard Cohen. It’s not about who was the more talented or important person, it’s much more personal. I enjoyed some Leonard Cohen songs, and Zsa Zsa always made me smile, but George Michael and Carrie Fisher influenced me personally. They were threads in the fabric of my life. Small pieces, sure, but they meant something to me.
I remember being a pre-teen, dancing to Wham! songs in my room on sleepovers. Those early songs, and the music that George Michael made in the 90’s, were the background music of my adolescence and young adulthood. Eventually, his sexuality became a big part of his impact on me. My friends and I were more than ready for an openly gay pop star, but his struggle to come out publicly proved the world did not share our enthusiasm. It was like a barometer of the world’s homophobia, the timing of that coming-out, and I learned a lot from it.
I’m a Star Wars fan, but when I saw Postcards from the Edge, that was when I fell in love with Carrie Fisher. I must have watched that a dozen times, (with my mother, who herself was a bit eccentric and often embarrassing) and it soothed me and made me laugh and brought me a kind of peaceful joy I can’t really put into words. Then, much later when I saw her perform Wishful Drinking, I felt that same thing again.
So when I see posts telling me (not really “me” but people who have posted their grief which is similar to mine) to get over it, or to stop being so dramatic, I have to just say: Fuck off.
I’ll cry if I want to.
Today I mourn Carrie Fisher, a feminist, a public figure who was unapologetic about her mental illness, and one hell of a funny lady. If her death does not sting you, that is fine. We all have our influences and our loves. All I ask is a bit of empathy and respect.