Reflecting on Celebrity Deaths: Paul Walker

I’m guessing the only time Nelson Mandela and Paul Walker have ever been mentioned in the same sentence was when we noticed they died in the same week. It’s sad when anyone dies so know that that I’m trying to do my best to not objectify either men during this time. Nor will I be comparing their respective accomplishments or the characters. Still, I find myself reflecting on a couple of things:

One, that such two different men are sharing the home pages of news sites and individual social media sites together – nearly two weeks after their passing now. I’m sure similar things seem odd in newspapers but from what I remember of the newspaper, such news appeared on different pages and not for this length of time.
Two, like everyone I was surprised to hear that Paul Walker died in a car accident. I mentioned in an earlier post that I feared his passing was drug related but I found no relief in the Porsche engulfed my flames.
Three, the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela is incredible. Its appropriate to reflect on this and take in as much as we can now.
Four, we react differently and similarly to the death of celebrities and public figures.

So here we go. Although most of my attention is spent on reading about Mandela these days, I still feel for those affected by Paul Walker so I’ll start with the chronology.
My wife mentioned to me last Saturday that Paul Walker died. Social media responded. This is always interesting.
Some took the news to heart. On one level, they should, it’s sad when anyone dies.
Some were annoyed and responded with words like, “Now suddenly everyone is a Paul Walker fan” and “Come on people, he was a bad actor and those movies were terrible” and some had very unkind things to say implying that he deserved the kind of death. I pity those who make such statements. Is it due to a lot of hurt in their lives that has led to such a calloused heart?

The Fast and Furious movies are a guilty pleasure for most of us and I don’t mean that to sound condescending to the fans of this franchise. They’re fun movies – cool cars, amazing stunts, colorful characters, and I hesitate to use the term plot twists and will go with plot wrinkles. Anyway, it’s all fantasy and rehashed from some of the dreams of our adolescence. There’s a place for all that – like the fun song from a one hit wonder band.

My concern is more in our humanity. We should not assume that Paul Walker was similar to his character in these movies Brian O’Conner (No I didn’t look that up. Like I said, guilty pleasure). Acting was his job and I find it odd that we detest certain people because of this. With all people, we need to see their humanity and look beyond their occupation, fame, faults, role, etc.

We hear he was a good guy and there’s that story floating around of him buying an engagement ring for a couple and that’s all good but we should need those stories to hold him in high regard. In any case, it’s always startling to me when people hate on things. Would you like Paul Walker more if he were famous for a different reason? Or what if he was not a celebrity? Obviously, we wouldn’t be talking about him to this extent and this has me wondering where humanity and celebrity meet and separate.

Now for those who took Walker’s death to heart we should consider it is interesting the role that celebrities play in our lives. We are all so different and we have so many different interests and sub-cultures and perhaps this seems why we have so many celebrities (that and the entertainment industry profits greatly from offering the public so many).

Some will say we mourn for celebrities because of how they touched our lives. It feels like you can only love a few, so I’m not sure of that accounts for the emotional charge of a celebrity’s passing. It seems more of the mourning for celebrity figures is because they remind us that no one is excempt from tragedy. They are held up on a pedestal and enjoy special privileges that we almost forget their shared frailty. Again, we return to the humanity theme. We are reminded of this from time to time. I think the first time I really wrestled with this was Princess Diana. How could she have died in a freak car accident?

Needless to say, life is filled with grief and tragedy – no one is exempt from pain and death. These things and countless more headlines, prayer request and our observances give us pause. It seems moving through life allowing our hearts to be soft enough to feel and strong enough to hope is a balance worth praying for and pursuing.

Next post is on Nelson Mandela. What’s up with the criticism? Do detractors think now is an appropriate time? What an interesting (and flawed) world we live in. I also want to consider how we react differently to the deaths of entertainment celebrities and public figures. Thanks for reading and sharing – your thoughts are welcomed.

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