Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Thoughts: When Famous People Die


My drawing of the late singer Amy Winehouse
"Why is that when one - just one - celebrity dies, everyone in the world seems to cry, yet when [insert x] millions of people die in [insert country] (due to [insert an economically unstable nation (probably) suffering from a natural disaster or famine]) in one day, no-one else in the world seems to care?"

I've heard this question, or similar, a lot this year, mainly on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and especially in light of the deaths of two very public figures (that I've personally felt affected by) - Amy Winehouse and Steve Jobs, while indeed there have been many simultaneous mass deaths in different parts of  the world.

The mass of media coverage is one thing, corresponding action from the audience is another, and I guess the latter is what I'm referring to, in the main.

From a self-reflective perspective, I think the answer to that question lies in two words - personal impact

For me, these two 'celebrities' (for want of a better word) really impacted on my life positively in different ways. Amy cheered me up after a 'love' lost (or realisation that stupidity had seized my body at some point, and that is painful - pride is a cruel thing, sometimes), an argument, a 'down' day or feeling of injustice, made my heart beat a little bit faster after listening to her jazzy vocals juxtaposed with hip-hop or ska beats or pop-soul melodies on the backing track and Steve - well, he helped make making life more tech-focused, and therefore theoretically easier, more popular and arguably more fun.

So via some very crude extrapolation I take it that many others mass-mourn for the same reasons; before these two and other 'celebrities' died, they were a part of the mourner's lives in some direct or obscure fashion. They entertained, informed, educated, made life more fun, easier or exciting.

In other words, the mourners were aware that the now-deceased did something for them - and now that source was gone. Therefore in a fashion, it's a sense of mourning for your own loss. It's kind of selfish, but after all, as a wise man once stated: 'The greatest word in the world is "self"'.

I think we also have to take into consideration Galtung and Ruge's seminal study into news values [click on the link for info about their work].

They helped influence a list which assesses the conditions for why news is news - you can view on  Wikipedia and was written well before social media was a twinkle in a computer scientist's eye.

News has evolved, but some of theose conditions still appear somewhat relevant, especially ones such as elite persons.

What remains the same, is that there is a sense of 'what's in it for me' by reading a news item. Therefore the question is do people feel that the emotional investment towards mass deaths is worth it if they've never felt directly positively affected by those lives - especially if one is not politically motivated or particularly passionate about humanitarian matters (yep, some people aren't).

I think the answer is self-evident; that's usually why lots of celebrities are asked (and self-driven) to represent an NGO.

Is this sad? Yes, but it's reality. Influence is a key component in people's decision-making process. People will be drawn to something if it has received the right sort of publicity. Which brings me full circle. Celebrities influence because they have a platform to show you why they are valuable to you.

I'm not arguing that celebrity-mourning it's right or wrong, but merely stating reasons why it may exist.

What do you think?

Thursday, 6 October 2011

People: My tribute to Steve Jobs

My pictorial interpretation of Steve Jobs as seen on the April 2010 Time magazine cover
I was saddened to hear about the passing of Steve Jobs, but it served as a timely reminder to make the most of life. So much so, I wrote a post on Emma Cossey's Blog about his legacy. RIP Steve Jobs xxx