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Celebrity Superlative Excess July 29, 2009

Posted by Edwin Ritter in Trends.
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They say things happen in a series of threes. The most recent series of three is the spat of celebrity deaths.  The recent passing of Ed McMahon, Farah Fawcett and Michael Jackson brought a slew of media coverage. Farah and MJ occurred on the same day. The coverage was heavily skewed toward MJ over Farah’s passing. While no surprise, what is a little disconcerting is how their lives and achievements are remembered.  A quip from Jay Mohr I heard on the radio put the use of excessive superlatives into perspective for me. I agree with his statement that said “How is that the last person that died is now the best person who ever lived?”

We all handle death differently and I certainly mean no disrespect to any of these people.   When a celebrity dies, a part of our lives is gone and we are changed because of it.  All things being relative, the good news is we are still here. The bad news is someone whose talents we enjoyed is gone. More bad news – it also doesn’t mean they are now greater than they where in life. It had to be said and I feel much better.

We tend to use superlatives too easily. And that’s my point – if those words were instead say, a rare commodity, we would be more discerning in their usage. I suggest we use those terms because they are common to us; in fact, they are overused. Their meaning has been diluted as a result.  We are less sensitive to their impact and import. If you know what I mean, and I think you do.

Maybe this is my way of processing the news about the celebrities. Perhaps it is now part of living in the digital age.  Binary logic of ones and zeroes. So, perhaps our observations are more binary focused which  leads to excess. It it simpler to have a viewpoint from one extreme (or the opposite). Dealing with the gray in the middle is where it gets hard. That was life in the analog world where ‘close enough’ mattered. No more.

We think now in extremes in this digital age – something is or it isn’t.  That is a subtle change which we will appreciate more at a future date. Life will be better then, even though a lot of great people will no longer be with us. Some of them might even have been the best.