Celebrity deaths

Without wishing to speak ill of the dead, I have to say that I am somewhat baffled by the national mourning over the deaths of Steve Irwin and Peter Brock. Of course it's terrible for their families and for people who actually knew them or had met them, and for fans it's kind of sad, but this huge outpouring of grief from people who didn't know them at all is so strange to me. I have no desire to shed tears over someone I've never met; someone I only know from their public persona.

I'm sure if I'd been at Steve Irwin's public memorial, held in the zoo he started and which is so important to the Irwin family, I would have cried. But I would have been crying in the same way I cry at a sad movie - not because I feel grief but because I recognise the inherent sadness of the situation. I'd be crying in sympathy with other people, not as an expression of my own grief. When fans say they are devastated I wonder why they think that. Do they have to look at an empty seat at the dinner table? Do they have to pack up Steve's clothes and sort through his personal effects? Will they get to December and start to dread Christmas because Steve won't be there? I doubt it. In reality, Steve Irwin's death and Peter Brock's death - and any celebrity death - has almost no impact on the day to day lives of ordinary fans who didn't know them. There's no doubt it's shocking when a familiar figure dies suddenly, particularly when it was through a freak accident, and I believe part of what makes it shocking is that we are suddenly confronted with mortality once again - that thing we try so hard to avoid thinking about - and we may feel genuine sympathy for their families, but grief? I don't know... I feel somehow that we don't have the right to grief over strangers. To me it seems to cheapen the real grief felt by those people who are faced with a suddenly empty chair at the dinner table.


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