When I heard that James Gandolfini died, my first thought was heart attack. Each time I'd seen pictures or footage of him over the last decade, he seemed to be heavier, and I remember being worried and thinking it would be a shame for him to die earlier. He passed, and I was sorry to hear the news. Steven Van Zandt, who worked with him for years, tweeted his sadness about the loss of a man whom he considered a brother. I got that. I was touched. It was personal.
I have no problem with this, obviously.
But then came an outpouring of condolences online and for reasons that weren't immediately clear to me. I got vaguely annoyed. Then I realized, I usually get annoyed by public displays of grief for celebrities. Mind you, not just in the cases of the Cobains and Winehouses, who played such an integral role in their own demise. I've written about that before. Just generally, there's just something irritating to me about people's public displays of grief for someone they don't know.
The more I thought about it, the more important I realized the "don't know" part was. After all, Stephen Colbert lost his mother the same week Gandolfini died, and his public display of emotion had me in tears. He was honoring his mother, just as Van Zandt was honoring the memory of his dearly departed personal friend.
But most of the stuff filling my Internet feed? I don't know. I can't shake the feeling that so much of it has a subtext of "Dig me! I'm caring! I'm grieving here." Why not tweet about people we don't know?
Around the time of a celebrity death, people hungry for good-guy points swarm to the corpse, dropping platitudes. It makes me think of every good man, woman, and child who died, perhaps under more horrific circumstances, that didn't create a massive outpouring of public grief. It just seems somehow disrespectful to their memories to lose your shit over someone else because they had a job that came with fame.
Of course, people can miss the work even if they don't know an artist. They can pay their respects to what that artist has accomplished and lay condolences for the family. I'm not saying it's wrong to publicly grieve for celebrities under any circumstances or in any way, but I don't know. I know false shitty sympathy when I see it. It's the condolences delivered publicly with an eye for doing more for the speaker than the bereaved. And it bugs me.
So. AM I CRAZY?
Well, the Internet Says ...
Not checking. Who cares. It's the Internet.
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