When I was younger, I remember my parents mentioning people I’d never heard of and sadly lamenting that they’d died. It was strange to me as a child because they definitely weren’t friends or family members; and then when asked about who they were, they would seem sad I didn’t know and say it was a celebrity or well known person they particularly admired. I remember finding this a bit odd because it wasn’t someone they knew, if it was someone from television or film, they could still listen to their music or watch their films, so why did it make any difference to them that they happened to have died?
As an adult, I get it now.
Alan Rickman sadly passed away after a battle with cancer yesterday. He is not the first celebrity to have died that has made an impact on me. Not even the first this year, only a few days previously, we all heard that David Bowie had also passed away, also sadly after a battle with cancer.
Now firstly, hopefully when my two children grow up, it will seem strange to them that people died of cancer as it will be something we’ve beaten, that’s my hope.
But more importantly, what will I say if they ask why I care?
I will tell them that they were a part of growing up, a part of my childhood and therefore had an impact on my life.
On my Timehop yesterday, I was shown a quote I’d posted on Twitter about David Bowie, it read as below;
“When in doubt, listen to David Bowie. In 1968, Bowie was a gay, ginger, bonk-eyed, snaggle-toothed freak walking around South London in a dress, being shouted at by thugs. Four years later, he was still exactly that – but everyone wanted to be like him, too. if David Bowie can make being David Bowie cool, you can make being you cool. PLUS, unlike David Bowie, you get to listen to David Bowie for inspiration. So you’re already one up on him, really. YOU’RE ALREADY ONE AHEAD OF DAVID BOWIE.”
It was a quote that resonated with me (those of you that are regular readers will know that I too have a snaggle-tooth that I was mocked for when I was younger but have fully embraced as an adult, I could pay to get it straightened but I certainly will not!) As an out and proud ‘weird kid’, the freedom, confidence and unapologetic individualism that David Bowie showed was a real inspiration to me.
Alan Rickman is an actor I admire, his work ethic, his public persona and everything that I know of him (I won’t pretend to really ‘know’ any of these great people, but as celebrities, they touch our lives depending on there work and persona). One of his (in my opinion) great roles was in Dogma, a film I remember seeing at the cinema as a teenager and LOVING. With a real interest in comedy, his comic timing and dry wit was something I really admired. I’m also a big fan of the Die Hard films and as such, his Hans Gruber was a villain I thoroughly enjoyed. His career spanned many more films but those two and the big franchise I’m about to mention were the two that I remember him for. I will also say that although I can’t stand the film Love Actually (sorry!) both Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson play a heartbreakingly real and beautiful relationship thanks to their huge levels of talent as actors.
Harry Potter was a HUGE influence of kids my age, I remember waiting eagerly for the next book to come out and reading it on holiday and then at school, you had to find those who had read it to be able to discuss the big surprise plot points so as not to ruin it for those who hadn’t yet acquired the newest instalment. For the next generation of fans, the films had the same impact. And one of the most beloved characters in the series is of course, Severus Snape played by Alan Rickman. His cool, biting exterior and secret heartache and emotional depth was expertly portrayed and universally praised. His performances spawned a whole host of internet memes, and a whole generation of actors had a role model to want to live up to.
After reading the books, myself (and thousands of others) had clear ideas of what the characters all looked like in our heads. Snape was one (for me) that not only fit the description but just embodied everything we had read about him.
So to explain my point, I grew up wanting to have Molly Weasleys strength of character, I wanted to be as badass as Professor McGonagall, I wanted to have Neville Longbottom’s courage and I wanted to love as strongly as Snape loved Lily Potter (hopefully with it being requited!). I loved reading and my imagination took me really exciting places! Actors like Alan Rickman and musicians like David Bowie, metaphorically held your hand and took you there. The world is an exciting place with people like that in it. You feel that you too can achieve greatness when they show it to you. That you too can go on an adventure so grand, find a love so strong and stand up for who you are as tall as they did.
So without sounding disrespectful, we mourn not for the celebrities that we didn’t really know, we mourn for who they were to us and the magic and quality they brought to our life. So yes, there are inevitably people who post on Facebook and Twitter and other social media sites because they feel they should, or because it’s what people do. But for a lot of people, some of whom keep their grief from a public status and some of whom are moved to mention it as an outlet; we are feeling that persons influence on our life leaving. The world is that little bit greyer, not for a significant amount of time compared to losing a family member perhaps, but for a time we feel the pain of losing someone who without knowing it, was important to us who we have become.
As my children grow up, I will sadly see more and more of my childhood hero’s or people I admire leave this world; and they will shake their heads not knowing who I’m talking about, whilst simultaneously, without realising, forming their own attachments to people of their time. and then one day, when the first person of influence is in the news for passing away, they’ll get it.
2016 has, in it’s first 15 days, lost two extremely bright stars and I only have to look on social media to know that almost my entire generation are feeling the same. And so finally to quote an incredible man who said it himself better than any of us could, when we are all 80, and still talking about Harry Potter, our grandchildren will roll their eyes and say, “After all this time?”
And we will smile and say. “Always”