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Celebrity Death & Decorum, or How Social Media Has Made People Angry Over the Wrong Crap

Saturday night my wife was about to go to bed when Courtney, my teenage daughter, said as she scrolled Twitter, “Do you know who Paul Walker is?”

Pamela and I looked at each other. “He’s from those Fast and Furious movies,” Pamela said.

“Yeah, well, he died in ‘a fiery car crash,'” Courtney said.

My wife and I both said, basically, “Oh no! That’s sad!”

That was about the extent of it. After she went to bed, I went on the iPad and was scrolling through my Facebook feed and Twitter feed. The news about Mr. Walker’s death was still pretty fresh but I already saw something unsettling. Someone (I don’t remember who) had posted to Facebook something alone the lines of: “150,000 people died today, but we’re all fixated on one celebrity.”

Over the course of the past two days, I’ve seen similar kinds of posts. A lot of them. On Facebook. On Twitter. I’m sure there are others out there.

Why?

It’s a lot like the essay I wrote about people liking to go out of their way to inform all the fans of a particular TV show, movie series, or game that they don’t watch it, but it’s uglier. Much uglier.

Unlike, say, Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton or Snookie or any other reality TV star, Mr. Walker actually worked his ass off to achieve what fame he received, and it’s not as though he was out partying when his death happened. Yes, it appears he was in a speeding vehicle, but he had just finished a fundraiser for Philippine relief. Oh, and he had a history of helping those who’d been hit hard by disaster.

In other words, Mr. Walker did something that made a lot of people happy, and helped a lot of people, and now he was being mourned.

Now, before I’m accused of being a superfan of his, I’ll state that I’ve never seen the Fast and Furious movies (though Pamela and I were talking about them just that morning) and I honestly had to double check what his name was before I began writing this. I know only as much as I’ve read about or have seen on TV in the last couple of days.

The thing that annoys me is the flippant dismissal over the man’s death. Yes, he was a celebrity. Yes, he was a star of a series of popcorn action flicks. But he was also the father to a 15-year-old daughter. Like I am. He was 40 years old—four years older than I (and my wife’s age). He organized help for those who needed it. And he’d worked for most of his life to achieve what fame he had, and compared to most movie stars, he wasn’t necessarily the biggest name. Consider the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson had more screentime in the recent Fast & Furious trailers and commercials than he did, even though Johnson had only done a couple of them.

That’s not to say that all the other people who died Saturday shouldn’t be mourned because they absolutely should. They all have families and friends and touched lives for the better. Unfortunately for them, they weren’t in one of the most successful franchises of the last decade or so. They were known outside of their local places or by those close to them. Mr. Walker was.

Instead of bitching about the public mourning of fans, and the media’s attraction to the story (which, let’s face it, is a huge piece of irony and is grisly, two things modern news loves), let’s use Mr. Walker’s death as a symbol to all those who died that day. His death becomes the face of those regular people who died that day, no less tragic, no less sad.

In other words, with all the silliness out there in the world, the racism and sexism, the growing socioeconomic chasm, the bigotry and hatred, let’s focus our energy on fixing those things instead of making people who lost someone they cared about in some way, whether it’s because they knew him or it was because they loved his movies, feel bad about their public mourning and the news outlets reporting of it.

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Dear Mr./Ms. I’m-Too-Cool-For-School: Fuck You

So today the social mediaverse was alive with the news of BBC’s announcement of the 12th Doctor of its long-running show Doctor Who. I am a new Whovian, having only begun watching the show via Netflix late last year (I’m still waiting for Amazon Prime to get the second half of series 7, or Netflix the entirety of series 7). I intend to go back and watch what I can of what’s being called Classic Doctor Who on these streaming services. Because Doctor Who has exploded since its 2005 revival, today was a big day for nerds, geeks, purveyors of fine entertainment, science fiction aficionados, and the British public. My Twitter stream, my Facebook stream, everything has been posting and talking about The New Doctor Peter Capaldi.

With this excitement (fear? horror? disappointment?) has been the usual people who are Too Cool For School. The ones who go out of their way to let their Facebook friends and Twitter followers know they have no interest, not a scintilla, a microbe, a minute inkling of a teeny-tiny possibility of interest in who the new Doctor is. They have never seen, will never see, have no interest in ever seeing Doctor Who, Doctor What, Doctor Where, or Doctor How (though they’re probably lying on that one: Everybody wants to know How).

Look, I think we’ve all done this at some point. And if I cared to go through my Facebook musings since I signed on in 2008, I’m sure I could come up with a dozen examples. Sometimes I’ve done so as a joke (at some point in the last year about the TV show Once Upon a Time). But I had an epiphany at some point during some football game or hockey game or somedamnthing, in which I didn’t give one iota of a fuck about: Why piss on their parade? Some of these people on my feed care about whether Tom Brady or Lebron James or some other athlete or team wins, they’re really into it, so who am I to be Too Cool For School?

I see this as a moment of mature clarity for me. It’s so easy to dismiss out of hand something one does not like that everyone is talking about. All it is is the 12-year-old who decides to wear black clothing on Colorful Clothes Day. It’s the little kid who is going to say “No” even when they’re dying to say “Yes.” It’s the Republican who has scientific evidence in front of them but decides Climate Change doesn’t exist and stricter gun laws won’t save lives.

It’s silly.

So, for those of you who are too cool to care about Doctor Who, or the Superman/Batman movie, or Star Wars, or Stephen King, or Harry Potter…or even shit I don’t care for like Transformers, Twilight, or whatever else: Fuck you.

I’m not talking about opinion here. If you’ve seen it and want to say you didn’t like it, go for it, man. By all means, add your thoughts to the mix. But if you’re just too hip, too cool, too happening, too intellectual, too snobby to care about what, it seems, a lot of other people care about, keep it to yourself. Otherwise, go fuck yourself.

Now I’m going to write. Play nice.

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