Fame is always weird. It’s really weird how it makes people relate to the fortunes and misfortunes of people they never met and never will meet. People they have no relationship with except on one side of the TV or movie screen.
When I logged into WordPress, the leading post was someone caterwauling about Tim Russert’s death. I expect that kind of mourning from the press who see themselves as the New Immortals and have an emotional relationship at least as colleagues.
But let’s face it, why should anyone else care?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not pro-Tim Russert dying. If I had to choose between Tim Russert being alive or dead, I’d choose alive. But I don’t have any kind of emotional relationship with him. His passing doesn’t affect me in any way. Guess what, it doesn’t affect you either.
Famous people are not your family. Famous people are not connected to you in any way. Just because you’ve watched someone on TV for a decade, doesn’t connect you in any way.
The false creation of emotional investment in famous people is at the heart of America’s cult of celebrity, a stupid and shallow value system. It’s not Tim Russert’s fault. He didn’t expect to die and he didn’t expect you to care about it. It’s your fault.
Today people can’t be bothered to have a family because it’s too much inconvenience, but they can create deep emotional connections to people on TV they never even met. It’s the fruit of indulgence and egotism and it’s a rotten harvest.
Today every dead celebrity generates his own Lincoln funeral train. People mourned more for Princess Diana than they did for many of their close relatives. We’ve become a selfish society seeing in famous people the vanity of our own egocentric reflection, to be famous, to be somebody, to matter. When a celebrity dies, we mourn them not as people, but as the passing of another fragment of that dream, another piece of the cultural wallpaper we’ve surrounded ourselves with, another father figure on the chattering box of static that fills our lives.