Kill Your Heroes: Speaking to Society’s Gross Modern Perception of Death

Robin Williams - Wikipedia

Currently Listening to: The Greys by Frightened Rabbit

How Could This Happen? (Intro)

I write most of these entries while working the very early morning shift at my job and usually I’ll have something planned the night before, but today felt different. Call it writer’s block, call it lack of sleep, call it I have so much school happening at once and am stuck in a pandemic-itis. I did come into my shift this morning with the intention of writing something, I just didn’t know what. Usually I’ll turn on some fairly easy going music while I peruse through the internet, usually indie folk, soft rock, or R&B. Today I came across Frightened Rabbit. What a great band. They’re not my favorite band by any means, but they came in at such a pivotal point in my life that they hold a special place in my heart.

I had the privilege of seeing the band perform at Lollapalooza in 2016 and was blown away at their musicianship and the dedicated fanbase that was front and center at the dusty baseball field stage. Flash forward to May 2018. I followed the band on Twitter at the time and I enjoyed reading whatever they posted, but they weren’t very active. I tapped the news and Frightened Rabbit was trending. Uh oh… This was during what was arguably the height of the “me too” movement so I was worried something had happened. Even worse. Scott Hutchison was missing. The band tweeted out they had no idea where Scott was other than they knew he was at a hotel in Scotland and that he was in a ‘fragile state’. Hutchison put out two tweets within the days missing:

“Be so good to everyone you love. It’s not a given. I’m so annoyed that it’s not. I didn’t live by that standard and it kills me. Please, hug your loved ones” and the one that is haunting to this day, “I’m away now. Thanks”. These tweets caused me to follow this story extremely close and hope that this suffering man was okay.

Scott Hutchison was found dead on May 10th by a bridge around Port Edgar in Scotland. I was numb. I don’t really react or feel anything when celebrities pass other than a short thought of ‘oh that sucks’ and sympathy for their family and friends because well that’s sad. Death is immensely morbid to the masses.

I’m assuming that the death of Hutchison affected me more than normal because this situation felt very real. Someone going missing in a delicate state of mind and tweeting vague statements saying that we all need to love each other and that he’s ‘away now’ just feels like something that I’ve heard before. Almost as if someone I used to know from school went missing or someone I used to work with had disappeared and their family had reached out asking for details.

So with that whole circulation of thought this morning, I thought I would write about how death is treated in what my college courses call the digital age and why I think it is beautiful, confusing, and disgusting.

It’s Like I Knew Them…

As stated prior, what made Scott Hutchison’s story so powerful and upsetting to me is how real it felt. Frightened Rabbit was never a huge band either so maybe the fact that he seemed more human than the average celebrity made it seem like he was a person. People of fame are obviously living being, but in a weird way they don’t seem human to me. They might as well be animatronic sculptures of cheese (I watched a small YouTube doc on Chuck E Cheese before this, don’t hate that metaphor). I just don’t see them as human.

Any small act of charity, hospital visit, the infamous ‘thoughts and prayers’ tweet that many of them tweet when someone passes away or a public disturbance occurs. It seems like they are held on such a high rank by so many people that it comes off as pity. I’ve mentioned the halo effect in entries prior and why I think it is a toxic trait that our society possesses. This is no stranger.

Even when celebrities are still alive people act like they know the people they idolize. Maybe they really do and keep in touch and have conversations over crullers and macha tea… Nah. That’s very unlikely. I used to be a pretty avid Twenty One Pilots fan back in late middle school early high school. That was until they broke out in 2015 and their fanbase got incredibly stuck-up and acted like gatekeepers. I remember distinctly a conversation on Josh Dun’s Instagram comments between two fans going back and forth about how goofy the drummer is in the picture and how it is “just Josh being Josh”. Ew, what??? You don’t even know this man!

Point is that people will delve so deep into a famous dude’s social media, interviews, and Wikipedia page that they feel as though they know them. Kind of like how horse girls think they know every Clydesdale’s background story and how they came to this country with nothing but a dollar in their horseshoe and fueled on a whole lotta hope. People worship their celebs and power to them. Some people just find that admirable quality in someone that makes them want to make them believe they know them.

The Day(s) of Mourning ?

Michael Jackson, Prince, Robin Williams, David Bowie, Whitney Houston… These are all names that in my lifetime were impossible to avoid when they passed away. These people all had monumental influence in their respected area of profession and definitely meant the world to a specific generation and demographic. I remember the day when Michael Jackson passed away. My mom and uncle were especially gutted when they heard about the passing of the king of pop. They grew up listening to his music and lived through some of the biggest moments in pop culture history because of him. The moonwalk, the Thriller music video, the “hee-hee”s, and many other things. Arguably the biggest artist to ever walk the earth.

Nostalgia is definitely a main component of why people have such a strong reaction to when people like Michael Jackson pass away. We all get emotional thinking about the things that made us happy during our childhood. It’s like when the Cubs won the World Series in 2016, it was an emotional event for so many people including my family since we had all grown up watching the Cubs be the butt of every sports joke. Seeing them win was a victory for everyone who had been a fan for any amount of time. We all had that childhood connection and shared love for these teams and people we look up to, but will probably never meet. I think it is very cool that we are able to learn about ourselves and our emotions through the ideas and actions of these people. To an extent of course, the Swifties that try to be Taylor Swift are vile.

You may have noticed the question mark in the section and that is completely intentional. There has been this recent trend that I have seen on Twitter whenever a celebrity passes away where users will share information about them that shines a negative light on them and their legacy. Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away last week and there has been a massive outpour of praise and blessings to her family and the legacy she left behind. Meanwhile, someone tweeted a screenshot of an article a few years back about her where she said she didn’t understand Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the national anthem. Okay buddy, we get it you’re cool. Save some women for the rest of us.

This is a common occurrence nowadays. George Bush Sr passed away and while he was a controversial figure and had a lot of people oppose him even his sworn enemies were sharing their condolences (whether or not to believe them is up to you). Meanwhile I see someone tweeting something along the lines of “you shouldn’t feel bad for George Bush Sr dying. He hated gay people and did nothing about AIDs”. Even if that may be partially true, let those who did look up to him mourn in their own way.

I don’t understand the notion of making people feel bad for caring about someone who isn’t with them. I’m not saying worship Hitler or anything like that nor to ignore the bad things that they did, but the point is someone found a quality in that person that they found admirable and maybe learned something about themselves in the process.

Cancel Culture Strikes… I Mean Stinks

Deaths of a public figure bring out the weird in people. This is applicable for people that are still living too, but some people have a free pass of sort. A pass that George Bush Sr didn’t exactly get handed (probably because he was the president). This is the ‘I can’t be canceled’ pass. Some people that I look up to have done some terrible things that aren’t to be ignored. John Lennon is someone I’ve learned a lot about and took a lot from. Buuuuuuuuut he did also beat his first wife. David Bowie is someone I was really fond of in high school, but he also had sex with a minor. Yikes. Michael Jackson is infamous for a number of different allegations, but many still look up to him.

It feels wrong to say that I look to someone who abused their wife because my morality says that’s the wrong thing to do and obviously I stand by that fact that beating your wife is the weakest thing a guy can do. Yet people still discuss him. Why? He stood for many things that people found admirable. He strongly believed in change and peace for people of all shapes and sizes. That doesn’t destroy the fact that he did what he did in the past, but the point is he ‘learned’ from it (I use quotations because like this entry presents, I don’t know John Lennon). A lot of people were inspired by his actions.

This poses the big questions like ‘why do some people get canceled over others’ and ‘is it wrong for me to like someone’s art and ideas if they’ve done bad in the past?’ A common phrase thrown around is to separate the art from the artist. This concept to me is iffy. Sure you can separate the art from their craft, but that certainly doesn’t mean you should forget it. This is something that I strongly argued for for many years. Until someone brought up change.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Change

I recently just finished watching the Karate Kid spin-off Cobra Kai. The plot follows Johnny, the villain from the OG Karate Kid, as he revives his old dojo and attempts to get his life together and come at life differently than his predecessor/mentor taught him growing up. Throughout the show he learns more and more about how times have changed and you watch him slowly grow. Meanwhile Daniel, the protagonist of the OG Karate Kid, tries to stop Johnny and sees him still as the bully who tormented him when he moved to the suburbs all those years ago.

This show represents the two arguments. Can people who have done wrong in the past do good now? Can someone truly change? These are both questions that we have to ask each other and ourselves.

When the rapper XXXTentacion was murdered in cold blood in 2018 I had no thoughts on the situation other than I knew he nearly beat his girlfriend to death. I never listened to his music and refused to at that, but a few peers of mine kept trying to convince me that he tried to change during the last years of his life. They tried showing me proof through videos and various statements he put out regarding his journey. While I still refuse to support his music and listen to it, this conversation opened up a new world.

I truthfully do believe that people can change and deserve a second chance. People do deserve the opportunity to change and grow for themselves. Who cares what someone like me would think or anyone for that matter. Only you can understand your growth and journey and that story isn’t for everyone to hear.

My main takeaway from writing this entry and closing it out is that what we attain and learn from someone’s legacy is completely subjective. If someone truly looks up to Elon Musk and is inspired by his craft let them be inspired. Art inspires art regardless where it comes from. We radiate and ooze great ideas based on what we can learn from others no matter where they come from. If it wasn’t for David Bowie I wouldn’t have the inspiration to learn how to play a guitar. If it wasn’t for Tony Horton I wouldn’t have been inspired to better my diet and perfect my workout routine. If it wasn’t for Donald Trump I would’ve… sike you really thought I would, huh!

Published by cpetschke

College student, writer, music lover, listener, learner.

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