Well, 2016 is off to a terrible start when it comes to celebrity deaths. Within four days both David Bowie and Alan Rickman have passed away, and for many people this has hit incredibly hard.
In the last hour almost every tweet or facebook post I have seen has been dedicated to Alan Rickman. From the Potterheads, to the Die Hard fans, those who swooned at the prospect of him in Sense and Sensibility, even those who aren’t quite sure they’ve forgiven him for breaking Emma Thompson’s heart in love actually, messages of grief and sadness are pouring in. And the same happened with Bowie… people shared their favourite songs, re-watched the Labyrinth, and told of how his music inspired them.
This tends to happen when a big name dies, the public grieve together. So far, I haven’t seen the articles yet, the articles I’m waiting for that always come when someone well known dies. The articles that pick people apart for being sad when someone they don’t know has died.
But the thing is, in some way, we do feel like we know them.
Of course we all know that we don’t feel the same sadness that friends and family of the deceased feel, and we know that we don’t have the personal connection that we would have should a friend of ours die, but there’s really no reason to assume that that stops us from being sad.
This is the point of art and music and films and books. They are meant to ignite passion and love and interest. They are meant to make us feel like we know the artist or character.
When I was eight years old my Auntie and Grandad bought me the first and second Harry Potter books for Christmas, and from that point I was completely hooked. Long before the films came out I felt an emotional connection to the people in the pages. I felt like I identified with Hermione, kind of had a crush on Draco, and was a bit scared of the infamous potions master.
*spoiler alert* (if you’re really, really behind)
The moment Severus Snape died in the Deathly Hallows, my heart broke a little bit. I knew he wasn’t a bad guy really, I knew he wouldn’t deceive Dumbledore like that, I just knew. I had this incredible emotional attachment to the stories, they taught me about friendship and love and despair. They taught me never to judge a person based on their appearance. They taught me that it is totally ok to love a fictional character.
When the films came out, I already had a pretty strong idea in my head of what I wanted the characters to be. Some I was disappointed in (controversial, but Helena for Bellatrix made me fume) but one, one was completely perfect.
Alan Rickman as the dark and cynical potions master with a deep seething loathing aimed at a teenage wizard. He was everything. The accent, the fluid motions, the eyebrow raises, the slow pauses mid sentence. Everything he did was exactly what I wanted to see. And so I went from adoring the character in my head, to the character on screen.
I think what’s really important about grieving a celebrity, is that each person who tweets, comments, or blogs, has a different reason for being sad.
So many people have been writing about Bowie and the way he blurred the lines of gender roles and smashed down the ideals of traditional masculinity. It made men realise they could be whoever they felt they were, it made people see that they could redefine their sexuality. And for someone who watches a Bowie video in a tiny town, or in a family that can’t understand this, it’s a pretty big deal.
The internet has made us a population of over sharers. Emotions, big events, secrets and sometimes arguments are plastered all over the internet for anyone to read. But the cynical responses that irritate me are the ones that assume we aren’t allowed to feel things.
“Why post that on twitter about Alan Rickman, you didn’t even know him!” But in my own way, I did. I knew that he was the only good part in a terrible Robin Hood film. I knew that he would love Lily Potter “always”. I knew that he made a mistake in Love Actually, that he had been “the classic fool”, and that I would always feel sad that he had bought that stupid necklace.
Celebs, characters, authors, painters, theologians, playwrites, singers… they all touch our lives in one way or another. They make us feel things we didn’t expect. They help us through tough times. They teach us who we are.
Grief is confusing and different for everyone. One person may grieve the death of their dog whilst another may never understand why you’re sad over an animal. But grief in whatever form is justified.
I think it’s safe to say that a lot of people this week are incredibly sad, that two wonderful legends have been taken away by an awful disease. I’m sure Alan Rickman, Bowie, Leonard Nimoy and Lemmy would find it pretty cool that so many people respected them, loved their work, and saw them as idols. Sharing stories of inspiration, favourite films, best interviews and more is a lovely way to commemorate a persons life, regardless of the fact that you never got to meet them.
For me, today is a sad day. And I think it’s ok to be sad.
“Look…at…me…” he whispered. The green eyes found the black, but after a second, something in the depths of the dark pair seemed to vanish, leaving them fixed, blank, and empty. The hand holding Harry thudded to the floor, and Snape moved no more.”