Why time isn’t the culprit
By Cazzy Lewchuk, Interim Opinions Editor
David Bowie. Alan Rickman. Prince. Gene Wilder. Muhammad Ali. Harambe. 2016 just can’t seem to stop killing beloved figures—and surely the year itself is the culprit!
Every time a beloved public figure dies, I see the same outcries. “Damn you, 2016!” “Hasn’t this year been awful enough?” or “What is the return policy on 2016?”
The fact is, celebrities die all the time. In almost every celebrity death, the star is either at a vulnerable old age—in their ’70s and ’80s—and/or has a terminal illness. It’s unfortunate, but eventually it’s time to say goodbye to entertainers—many of whom produced work enjoyed by multiple generations. It’s a hard thing to come to terms with, particularly when death arrives without warning.
These are names and faces familiar to virtually everyone. Millions of people were entertained by their work. Perhaps the sheer popularity of the deceased this year contributed to the anger; figures like Bowie, Prince, and Ali were iconic voices of a generation. They played by their own rules, and on some levels barely seemed human. It made their passing all the more shocking with the reminder that even our immortalized heroes on posters were not immune to the reaper.
But the year is not at fault here. I could go on about how time is a meaningless fluid concept and that the year doesn’t truly have meaning. It certainly has been a crazy one: outrageous political campaigns, massive public tragedies, and the release of Suicide Squad have all contributed to keeping the public’s spirits low. But all of those events would have happened over a longer period of time and framed in our mindset. They just happened to fall within the same arbitrary period from January to the current month, September.
A lot of beloved celebrities died in 2015 too, but those events don’t stand out to us, looking back. It’s the same in 2014, or any other year. In the current case, so many awful things have happened (or at least that’s what the media would have you believe) that the celebrities are icing on the cake.
Eventually, 2016 will pass, and in 20 years we probably won’t look back and think “Oh, that was the year all the celebrities died.” No year has ever been remembered for that before, because celebrities die at the same rate as everyone else. You’d probably be hard-pressed to remember the year a given figure died, or which ones all passed in the same 12-month period. More important things will take precedence, just as they should now.
Another celebrity will probably die by the end of the year, most likely one who is at an advanced age, and very sick. They’ll be a mark in 2016, the year of tragic ends to public figure’s lives—but eventually, they’ll be remembered only for their legacy, and not the year they died.