Grieving Celebrities

The geek community, particularly fans of Star Trek, took a gut punch Friday with the news of Leonard Nimoy’s death. I have a hard time understanding people’s grief when the person who died was a celebrity. He was an artist. An actor. But I didn’t know him. The man.

He played a character that is loved by millions. And, he did a wonderful job portraying that character. But he was not that character. And the tv shows and movies where he played that character are still there. Spock didn’t die. Spock can’t die…well, beyond the death scene that was scripted for him in the movies.

I don’t mean to sound completely heartless, I understand death and grief touch us each differently. It’s been almost a year since my mom died and I am affected by her absence every day. But I can’t grieve for people I didn’t know. I can empathize deeply with their loved ones and the pain and heartache they are most likely experiencing right now. But that’s it.

It kind of weirds me out to see people fall apart about celebrities. Actors, musicians, writers…these are all people who have chosen a vocation where they hope and pray and work their asses off for the approval of the unseen They create music, books, movies, tv shows in the hope that this thing that they’ve had a hand in creating is popular. And in those instances when this thing they played a part in makes it big, they are rewarded with the double-edge sword of fame.

As consumers of these books and movies, fans, we know these characters so well. Often better than we know our own family. They are there whenever we need them. They fill a void. Even if that void is simply needing some entertainment. We discuss them, dress up as them, write stories about them, pretend to be them. These are all wonderful things. And yet, none of these things has anything to do with the artist who originally created the character. Or very little.

Fame is such a strange curse. I’ve also never understood people wanting to be famous. I understand wanting to be successful in terms of earning a good living or being recognized by your peers. I imagine it must be nice to be wealthy. But I also imagine that money can’t buy happiness and fame comes with some strange consequences, including having people you don’t know think they do know you because they’ve read or heard or seen your work.

From everything I’ve seen and read, Mr. Nimoy was a wonderful man who carried his fame with dignity and grace. I’m betting things were more than a little weird for him on many occasions. But he was still someone I didn’t know. None of the movies or shows he did will change that, no matter how much I love the character he portrayed.

John Scalzi tweeted an attempt to explain to the non-nerds why some people were were so upset by comparing Mr. Nimoy’s death to that of a favorite grandfather.  Um, sorry but I don’t buy that. When my grandfather died, I lost someone I loved dearly and of whom I have very few pictures and no videos. Any time one of Mr. Nimoy’s fans misses him, they can rewatch something in which he acted. They didn’t have a personal relationship with the man. They won’t miss the things I miss about my Grandfather. Things like conversations about family, advice, the hugs, or the Hershey bars he brought every Sunday when I was a little girl.

I don’t know, maybe it’s strange that I don’t feel the kind of connections to celebrities that so many seem to feel. Personally, I find people thinking these artists are part of their family is the strange part.  Or, that their connection to the characters written and acted out by these artists somehow connects them to those that created them. I’m sorry so many people are hurting because of a celebrity’s death. I’m just not sure I’ll ever get it.


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