Photo Credit: newyorker.com
Let’s talk about death, baby. Something light and airy, no problem.
In all seriousness, in lieu of some recent tragedy surrounding the death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, Payton and Sarah Chester, Keri and John Altobelli, Christina Mauser and Ara Zobayan, we found some problems in the way the situation seemed to be handled from the standpoint of the media.
TMZ was the first journalistic body to report on the death of the beloved 41-year-old basketball star. As we are sure most people are aware, TMZ is not the most reliable or accurate site for reporting information, even for pop culture news.
Although their reputation is questionable, people saw what they had said, and chaos began to ensue. Although the death of Bryant was shortly confirmed, it seems rather seedy that TMZ used the name of this megastar to get readers interested. The proper term for this type of behavior is known as clickbaiting.
Clickbaiting is all over social media and even media in a broader sense; however, the implications of a YouTuber clickbaiting viewers to subscribe to their channel seem a little less serious than a celebrity news source, if we want to call it that, taking the name of one of the most well-known athletes and using his death as clickbait.
The rest of the media seemed to catch on to how this story was taking off and how well-loved this man was as well and used that to their advantage.
This quickly becomes problematic because not only is the reader instantly wanting more information due to lack of detail, they are also in a state of increased panic because there are not enough details at the moment the scene occurs to release information to the public. Trying to get information out to the public in a timely manner while attempting to produce accurate information regarding the cause of death and all members involved does not seem like an easy task to manage.
It is also a form of clickbait to include the name of the Bryants in the headline as the only names of the individuals involved in the crash who died, only to find out there were six other people in the helicopter with them who were also tragically taken away from their families that day. Those six are people, too. They were mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends and family to so many, just like the Bryants.
While it is easy to take the death of a famous person and make it about ourselves, it is also important to note that these people have the ability to inspire, motivate and change the lives of their fans due to their platforms.
Yes, the majority of fans never have the pleasure to meet the people that they look up to, but the impact that they have the potential to make in the lives of their fans can stretch across a multitude of boundaries. Thousands of people are grieving regardless of the level of closeness they may possess with these recently deceased individuals.
Processing the death of those we are close to and processing the death of someone in the public eye that we look up to are two different mechanisms, though there are likely several places where the two overlap.
For someone we are close to, we must physically learn how to live without seeing that person anymore and adjust the way we live after coming home from the funeral, the hospital visit, the family gathering, etc.
When grieving a role model that is more distant, it seems surreal because the media, images, videography and culture will immortalize them. We never will truly have to live without the presence of said individual, but what we will have to live without is that individual progressing and changing the future.
This process is a blessing and a curse because now we have the ability to remember them forever, but at the same time, we have to remember with every image we see or song we listen to that they are no longer with us, though their legacy may live on.
Another way for someone to be immortalized is through a catchphrase or through something representing them becoming proverbial. In the instance of Kobe Bryant, for at least the rest of our generation, it seems certain people will still shout “Kobe” before throwing something into a bucket or bin, allowing his legacy to be lengthened just a bit even outside of intense sports fans.
It is also important when going through the grieving process to remember that despite the fact these people are famous and likely have millions of fans, they are human just like we are. They have a family that now must process their death just as we would for our sister, father, uncle, cousin, etc.
Death is never something that is easy to approach in conversation, especially when it involves someone that is immensely important to us; however, remembering to be gentle and patient with those grieving is of the utmost importance.