In the UK, the DJ Andy Kershaw has provoked the wrath of the nation by saying something that I suspect many people think. He dared to say that though George Michael had his talents, and was a generous man, he wasn’t a god and the outpourings of grief are disproportionate from anybody who didn’t actually know him.
I sort of see his point. When somebody famous dies these days it’s obligatory to chop some onions and shed some tears. The same has happened with Carrie Fisher, and now Debbie Reynolds, yet I’d bet most of the professional mourners hadn’t given either of them too much thought for a good long time.
I admired Carrie Fisher for her attitude, her refusal to keep quiet about her bipolar disorder and her battle with drug abuse, her refusal to toe the party line in Tinseltown. I felt regret at her death, but I didn’t start flagellating myself in mourning for her.
The thing is that 2016 has seen the end of many people who were influential in the lives of others, for one reason or another. David Bowie’s music formed the audio background to my university days. Prince, though never my cup of tea really, was exceptionally talented. Terry Wogan was an avuncular presence for much of my adult life. Alan Rickman was a true star, no doubt about it. I was a bit saddened when Jean Alexander died, since I was of an era where Coronation Street first became staple primetime television, though the Ogdens were people I thought of as new kids on the block.
It’s all so inconsistent too. Nobody seemed too upset that Richard Adams died this week, and indeed you could well have missed it altogether, despite the fact that he wrote one of the greatest children’s books of all time. Harper Lee didn’t get anything like the reaction that Debbie Reynolds has had.
I’ll stick my neck out here, and say that much of the overblown reaction to deaths this year has been little more than mawkish histrionics. All of the people who died have left a legacy that’s still as enjoyable now as it was before their often untimely demise. That’s the point. You can still enjoy them for what they did without blubbering all over social media about somebody you thought you knew but truly didn’t.