When Celebrity Deaths are More Important than our own Darth Vader, America Needs the Force

Okay Facebook, let’s calm down for a moment and take stock: yes, Carrie Fisher died this week. As did George Michael, bringing the tally of this year’s celebrity deaths to seemingly epic proportions.

But seriously, is this the reason to decry 2016?


I liked Carrie Fischer as much as the next person—maybe even a bit more considering the number of Star Wars fans I’ve dated over the years and, oh yeah, the one that I married (he spent a whopping $8 each on a pair of Chewbacca gift bags, complete with faux fur, during a very-definitely-unauthorized shopping trip to Target this Christmas). And even though I haven’t seen Rogue One yet, I did see The Force Awakens last year and I loved it. There was a girl (!), a black guy (!!), and the iconic Princess Leia had finally traded her slave bikini for a new look and a new title: General.

So yes, Carrie Fisher had her moments of badassery. But she was also human. And humans die, especially when they have a history of substance abuse as did so many of the “immortals” claimed by 2016.

I’m not saying that she deserved it (especially as Fisher was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder in 1985), and I mean no disrespect to her mother Debbie Reynolds, who (along with Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain) inspired a significant portion of what I do with my life, but here’s an idea: let’s stop freaking out every time another celebrity dies and acting as if this—THIS!—is the worst thing that happened this year.


Because for every Bowie, for every Prince, for every Princess, I raise you a dead Syrian. I raise you a Philando Castile, an Alton Sterling. I raise you a young woman at Standing Rock who lost her arm while peacefully resisting the construction of the Dakota Pipeline. I raise you a young Muslim woman who was attacked on her way to class right here in the good old US of A. I raise you a white student—one of mine— who is afraid to marry her black boyfriend now that her soon-to-be-president, many of his cabinet appointments and even more of his supporters don’t see anything wrong with the KKK.

If there’s anything we should be mourning in 2016, it should be the death of decency, of our so-called democracy, of the flawed but hopeful dream upon which America was built.

It’s time to get a grip. It’s time to stop distracting ourselves with celebrity gossip and clever memes about the ruining of our precious 1980s childhoods. It’s time to stop anthropomorphizing a year of bad shit that we let happen and STOP letting it happen.

That is what Princess Leia would have done.



17 Responses to “When Celebrity Deaths are More Important than our own Darth Vader, America Needs the Force”

  1. David Quinly

    Let’s not forget those still held in Gitmo nearly 8 years after the promise to close an illegal amerikan prison established, to deny due process, by war criminals with the blood of hundreds of thousands of innocents on their hands and dollars in their pockets. Trump to date is just an embarrassment and a threat.
    We, collectively, are guilty of deadly crimes against humanity and allowing the crooks on Wall Street to escape justice. We must demand better of our leaders.

    • Kat Richter

      Yep. Obama promised to close Guantanamo in just about single one of his State of the Union addresses and yet here we are… it’s an embarrassment to our nation.

  2. TheChattyIntrovert

    Bitchin post! 2016 is definitely the worst year I can think of as far as crap happening, but its more than celebrity deaths. Those suck, but yeah, what all you said is super valid.

    Part of me thinks why it sucks to hear about another celebrity death–especially the ones from this year, is we’re a very escapist society. We bury ourselves in films and music and fantasy because the world around us sucks so bad. So it hurts when one of those who help us escape into another world, where things are a little less gray-area, where good triumphs (most of the time), where imagination and creativity are celebrated, etc., passes on. Part of me feels like they looked around, said “what’s the point?” and moved on. It feels selfish, but perhaps it really is.

    But I think ultimately why the viral-posting on celebrity deaths is on the increase is because we keep thinking that “this year can’t possibly get any worse, what the hell else is going to happen?” Well, that’s life, even for much appreciated pop-culture carriers like Carrie Fisher.

    Sorry my description’s not the best, but I can’t articulate it any better right now. Hugs to all, and yes, let’s make things better ourselves as life (and death) go on.

    • Kat Richter

      I’ve never had my writing called “bitchin” before but I am flattered by the badassery connotations, so thank you 🙂 I hear you on the escapism and the “how can it possibly get any worse?” but just last night I saw someone on my FB feed write, “Why does everyone keep referring to 2016 as if it was a person?” and that is EXACTLY the point I was making here. It’s not the year that needs to go away… it’s the defeatism and ambivalence.

  3. trulyunplugged

    Throughout today, I was reflecting on this very thing….though not on the profound levels you’ve so eloquently touched on…and, I thought to myself–“Why aren’t people grateful for who they haven’t lost (eg. family members and friends)?” Or even the majority of celebs who haven’t died this year…
    What sense does it make to accept that–in service of a spiteful conspiracy– time has arbitrarily bracketed a series of celebrity deaths within a designated (365 day) time-frame just to mess with us? I agree with you that people can fall into the trap of over-identifying and romanticising celebrity/celebrities–but it is such a reductive measure of quality of life; and smacks of a tactic I used as a child…If I got spanked, I would wail as hard as I could, in hopes that it would give the message that I had suffered enough. And, it strikes me that flawed thinking–tied to vilifying 2016–is akin to expecting 2017 to be the protective parent who overcompensates for the harsh/unfair treatment we’ve been subjected to. And, with all due respect, it smacks of entitlement…Instead of pointing fingers at time, we could be holding ourselves accountable by taking inventory of what we’ve done to contribute to the good this past year. Anyway, your stimulating and excellent post really resonates…thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Kat Richter

      Exactly! We shouldn’t just be blaming (as you so rightly pointed out) an arbitrary time frame of 365 days and acting as if everything is going to be set right again on December 31st at midnight. Because it won’t be. I love your idea of taking an “inventory of what we’ve done to contribute to the good this past year.” Might have to borrow this idea for tomorrow’s post actually! (With proper crediting of course…) Sure beats the wailing and gnashing of teeth approach.

      • trulyunplugged

        I love reciprocity…your amazing post was the catalyst for new connection, and made me link the snippets that had been running through my head….thank you for the clarity you brought to mind! 🙂

  4. Jerseyite Lurker

    Just on a tangent, if your student is afraid to marry her boyfriend because of the political situation, it would appear that something’s missing in the relationship to begin with. That’s certainly what I’d be saying to the guy, if he and I were buddies out for drinks talking it over: I’d say, do you want a wife who is going to take a public opinion poll, or check with the president, to decide if she wants to be seen arm in arm with you?

    (Also, much as I abhor having Donald Trump for a president–and I was down in your state campaigning against him–I think her fear is a bit exaggerated on that particular point. And believe me, I do abhor having that SOB for a president. I’m second to none in my abhorrence.)

    • Kat Richter

      I don’t want to say too much more about my student in a public forum, except that her fear was out of concern for her boyfriend’s safety– not how it might “look.” More of a “Oh shit… is this gonna be Jim Crow America all over again? And if so, maybe we should wait 4 years.” (As if Jim Crow ever really died… but more on that another time.)

      We had a big discussion in my classes about fear immediately following the election. And while I like to hope that these sort of fears will prove to be unfounded, they’re still very real for many people right now. I found a post from a friend on FB very helpful in assessing (and admittedly, adjusting) how I would respond and have asked her if I can copy it here so stay tuned 🙂

      • Jerseyite Lurker

        Ah, okay, good clarification. But even there, I think it’s important not to give the white supremacists power by being afraid of them. I also doubt they have as much to fear as she imagines. In any case, this shouldn’t affect their plans. Only their feelings for each other should.

  5. byIndiaBlue

    Thank you for this and keeping a grip on reality with the celebrity obsessions of 2016. Thankyou for the reminders of the real people out there.


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