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When a Star Ceases to Shine

By Dani Naess Hellesund
Staff Writer

When a celebrity dies unexpectedly, are we affected by it? Why is it that some of us feel a complete stranger’s sudden tragedy as strong as if it was a family member’s? The recent deaths of Paul Walker, the “Fast & Furious” movie star, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, the acclaimed stage and film star from “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” have resulted in nationwide mourning by many who had seen them only in movies.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word “celebrity” as, “the state of being famous or celebrated.” Celebrities are individuals that society values. They are given this status for their accomplishments, family or friend relations, or by creating a name for themselves without any specific talent. But what happens when these elevated humans die? Does it affect us in any way? Well, let’s take a look at history.

When Princess Diana died in 1997, the world stopped. It was a tragedy for the royal family, but regular people took to the streets crying and mourning her death. Queen Elizabeth II took her time before addressing the people because this was a time of private mourning, even though it cost her some of popularity points. The people were mourning and they expected their monarch to address them, which she did eventually, but not as soon as some would have wanted. When Princess Diana’s funeral cortege was driving towards Westminster Abbey, and eventually reached her final resting place at the Spencer family home, over a million people lined up along the route. Millions more tuned in to watch the funeral on television worldwide.

Another world shock was Michael Jackson’s death. The grief spread all around the world in minutes, thanks to the rapid news coverage. His fans and followers gathered around special places in Jackson’s life, including his home, places where he performed, and his old record studio. It was a grief-ridden world that said goodbye to the King of Pop in a public memorial at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Other famous people, whose deaths have shaken some to the core, were John Lennon and Elvis Presley. Both were deaths that have had a major impact on fans around the world. Lennon and Presley, like the others, were regular human beings with a talent that elevated them to iconic figures. They were loved, respected, and seen as a part of people’s lives.

So, are we affected by the deaths of a celebrity? Yes, absolutely. These are people who we learn to love, even though they are neither friends nor family members. In fact, we probably never met them or talked to them. However, they were important to us because we made them a part of our lives, and that is why we mourn for them as if they are our loved ones.

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