Death & the Media
How the public responds to famous deaths vs. deaths from a pandemic.
*Disclaimer: I wrote this article a couple days after Chadwick Boseman's tragic death in 2020. I submitted the piece to the Salt Lake Tribune and it was published in the OP-Ed section a couple weels later. Back then, the COVID19 pandemic was at its peak, creating fear and uncertainty all over the world. I wrote this piece to shed light on the recent events and deaths and to urge others to think about the tragedies happening everyday around us. Although the pandemic seems to be coming to an end, it is still important that we show respect to the lives we lost.
For many of us it can be easy to forget that celebrities are not superior beings - we often look up to them as role models and imagine what life would be like on their level. In the era of social media the public can easily begin to idolize celebrities. At the end of the day, we are all humans, celebrities too.
When someone influential dies, the world stops for a moment. All around the world jaws drop when we see the headline and ordinary people are suddenly connected by the loss of someone we felt like we knew. After reading the tragic headline, most people’s next instinct is to check social media and see what others are saying about the sad news you just read. All of a sudden, posts with long, thought provoking messages about life and death are scattered through your Instagram feed.
This year, the world has observed the deaths of Kobe and Gianna Bryant, Glee star Naya Rivera, and most recently, the devastating loss of Chadwick Boseman. Next year at the Oscars we will sit in front of our televisions and watch the annual “In Memoriam…” slideshow. We’ll remember those we lost and as the night goes on, celebrate the ones who remain. But what about all the lives we lost this year to a pandemic? Those lives who were just as worthy of the attention we give to celebrities when they pass. Where is their slideshow?
After experiencing so much death in a short amount of time it can be easy to become desentized to it. This does not make you a bad person, it is something that we are all experiencing and that we need to work on as a society. At first, media outlets published hour by hour updates of the pandemic and a constant new tally of the number of cases, everything was new, confusing, and terrifying. Now, the headlines are rarely about the virus and the page with updates is harder to find. As a country, we have learned how to live among a pandemic and almost tune it out. On one hand, fear has decreased and we are able to continue our everyday lives (mostly). However, is this really what we wanted? To more or less “ignore” a global pandemic and the ever growing numbers of deaths?
There is nothing wrong with acknowledging the death of an influential famous person; Chadwick Boseman was an amazing man and a real life superhero. He gave a voice to and represented a large community of people, and we must pay our respects. However, how can we pay our respects to non-famous real life superheroes who have given their lives and legacies to the pandemic? One must realize that famous people’s lives are not any more or less than the lives lost because of the Coronavirus. These deaths momentarily bring us together but when the shock passes and the story post disappears, that sense of community gets pushed to the back of our minds. I propose that we make an effort to continue to stand together and better honor those we have lost during this crisis. That we take a moment out of our busy days to think about those lives, and show gratitude towards our lives and those of the people we love who are still here. We can make a conscious effort to honor those people in our everyday lives by wearing a mask and doing our best to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, let’s make good use of that sense of community and put an end to the pandemic.
About the author
hi :) my name is beca and im a freshman at nyu! i love writing more than anything. in my opinion writing is the best form of self expression. here i will get to share what i am passionate about, i hope you enjoy.