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COM495: Quarter in Review

Here’s everything I’ve got, all in one post!

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Rant: Celebrity Deaths

We live in a celebrity culture. It’s as simple as that.

Like anyone else, a “star” is born — whether it’s a new teen heartthrob in a box-office smash, an athlete that seems to defy the laws of nature or a musician that manages to send chills down your spine with that perfect song.

And, like anyone else, that same star will die. Not just their fame, but the actual person. It happened this past weekend to actors Gary Coleman and Dennis Hopper.

With the way the news spread of their deaths, from CNN to Twitter to Facebook, you would have thought it was because of a slow news day — as if BP actually cleaned up its mess a month ago and Sarah Palin never existed. Regrettably, neither of these things is true.

The hype that surrounds celebrity deaths has become unbearable. No offense to the memories and families of Coleman or Hopper, but I’m sure plenty of people who have done more good in this world died on the same day as the two of them. Hey, maybe those people got an obituary that some small number of people will read. On the other hand, according to Google News, Gary Coleman’s death was covered by almost 1,500 sources at the height of its publicity (no pun intended, seriously).

My point is this: Celebrities are people and people die. And to the media: Let’s put out the information and move on. There’s no need to fuel the fire with the type of garbage that Us Weekly puts out, which I’ll get to in a bit. Let’s remember these people for the work they did, whether that was making us laugh, cheer, cry or making us do a little of each. For the most part with celebrities, like Coleman and Hopper, we didn’t connect with them on a personal level outside of their work. We never knew them personally. There was never any need to obsess over the fact that we lost two mildly famous men.

Let me put it this way, somehow, someway, Us Weekly is going to make money from this headline: “EXCLUSIVE: Ron Jeremy: Gary Coleman hated saying ‘whatchu talkin’ bout’ line.” Plenty is wrong with that, but one thing especially screams ridiculous: Gary Coleman would have not mattered in nearly any way imaginable without that phrase. So who the four-letter word cares? Apparently, plenty of people do. Because this is the same type of junk we get with every celebrity death.

As for Dennis Hopper, in terms of art, this is obviously a larger loss. He’s given us terrific films and performances, many of which I have yet to see (unfortunately, my best memory of Hopper, if you can call it that, is his performance as King Koopa in 1993’s Super Mario Bros.). Indeed, the man is a Hollywood legend. However, only about 500 sources covered his death at the height of its publicity, again, according to Google News. When compared to Coleman, it’s more proof that we really might just be living in a VH1 celebrity culture.

Of course, there are celebrities that transcend their peers. Michael Jackson’s death, for instance, comes to mind. The media might have led us to believe millions felt a connection to the pop-music star. Yet, I wonder how many people actually did feel a connection to the mysterious, freakish personality Jackson had become. Rather, the connection resides in his music, as it did with Ronnie James Dio’s death on May 16 (thus, the rule of celebrities dying in three’s remains intact).

I’m doubtful my plea will do much good, but please, when it comes to celebrity deaths, let’s take a break from the blogosphere and gossip rags. Want to remember Coleman? Throw on an old episode of Diff’rent Strokes. How about Hopper? For someone my age, I suppose it’s a good time for a history lesson. Maybe I’ll finally watch the so-called 1969 classic Easy Rider. And as for Dio, my ears are a little overdue for a few Rainbow or Black Sabbath tunes, anyway.

The fact of the matter is that these people brought characters to life and great music into our lives. For most of us, that’s the only reason we knew who they were in the first place. Remember the good times and leave the obsession behind.

After all, they’re not coming back.

Album review: Ratatat

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