2 min

Death comes to Facebook

A place where even the D-est of the D List can have a fan page

Outside the café where I’m typing, two anarchist punks with dissatisfied looks on their faces are engaged in a furious and philosophical debate. What happens when we die, essentially, is the topic of their conversation (though, so far, no real progress has been made toward an answer to this ageless question). It’s a fitting noise for the background, given my current area of interest — specifically, celebrity death.

Seriously, not to be macabre or callous, but is it me, or are celebrities (both minor and major) dropping like flies these days?

You know it’s a problem when the Oscars’ In Memoriam segment, nicely accompanied by music from the (still alive) James Taylor, omits acting icons like Bea Arthur and Farrah Fawcett. According to Academy sources, there were just too many people to include this year, so some names were left off.

I would have liked to have been in on that meeting, where the mucky mucks of the Academy picked their “important” celebrities to include in the annual tribute, people whose contribution merited 20 seconds of air time. Question: How is it that Michael Jackson, star of The Wiz, made the cut? Would we even describe that guy as an actor?

I guess you can’t blame the Academy for being overwhelmed. The number of recent celebrity deaths makes you wonder if there isn’t something in the water over at Celebrity Village. Indeed, it seems like a strange poison is causing mysterious deaths. And mysterious deaths mean waiting and waiting for the final report, which never comes (not that any of us really need to know).

Just in the past month, Corey Haim, Peter Graves (of TV series Mission Impossible and film series Airplane!), Merlin Olsen (from Little House on the Prairie) and Andrew Koening (whom you might recall from the sitcom Growing Pains if you were at home a lot in the ‘80s) all passed away. That, in case you are wondering, is just a selection.

I have a friend who suggests that with tools like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, the news of celebrity death travels much faster and further. By this theory, the situation is not that more celebrities are dying, necessarily. We just hear more about it through the newsfeed that stretches under and consumes the very fabric of our lives. At the very least, my Twittering friend tells me, because everyone has to post an RIP or favourite movie clip, our awareness of celebrity demise lasts longer.

The interesting thing with all this Twittering about death, to me, is it means I get to see what the celebrities in question meant to my friends. I, for example, couldn’t even recall who Corey Haim was until my friend put up a Lucas reference on her Facebook page. I’d completely forgotten Brittany Murphy was the voice of Luanne on King of the Hill until someone else posted a clip (all I could remember of her was that she was the skinny, slutty girl in 8 Mile).

Perhaps the blog-o-sphere/Facebook universe is the better place for celebrities to get their due, a place where even the D-est of the D List can have a fan page. Who even watches the Oscars any more, anyway?

In the meantime, here’s hoping for happier celebrity news in the next few months! I, personally, am sick of all this death. It’s almost April people, time to cast off our dark clothes and get our Spring on!

Mariko Tamaki’s Trending Topics column appears in every second issue of Xtra.