It's OK to like a celebrity

02 Dec 2013

Yesterday morning I discovered that Paul Walker had died in a car crash.

I decided to spend the day watching every Fast & Furious movie there was, from 1-6, even including the one he wasn't in.

As the day wore on, and the vehicular mayhem on screen grew more ridiculous with each passing installment, I noticed a rising trend on social networks - A large section of the population were sick of seeing Paul Walker mentions, and began to express their disgust.

The reasoning ranged from person to person. Either they were sick of people "worshipping the cult of celebrity", or bemoaning the lack of attention for the driver, saying he deserved it, or most ridiculously of all - Comparing his death to other tragedies or general world suffering. It may come as some surprise to these people that you are actually allowed to feel compassion for multiple human beings, even lots of them!

Caring about one person doesn't disqualify you from feeling something for people at large. People die every day. That much is true, but few could dispute a simple notion that you are bound to miss someone an appropriate amount, based on how much of an impact they had on your life.

For the thousands of people who die every day, and for the lost children of Syria, this impact is low. You've never seen them. You've probably not heard of them. You can still be saddened by the atrocities of the world while accepting that someone was more relevant to you personally.

The cries of "RIP Everyone else who died" and "Why do people only care about Paul Walker and not X who is dying in Y" on Facebook statuses about Paul are the worst cases of the human spirit's desperate desire to seem the most worldy or compassionate, and display a point scoring attitude of "My grievance is greater than yours" which is ultimately pathetic.

Nobody is forgetting anything. They're acknowledging that they miss someone who was more relevant to them, and you're trying to trample over it because you're an asshole who's shitty world view belongs in a self indulgent Comment Is Free article on The Guardian website, a tabloid newspaper or a Youtube Comment Section. Not in civilised discussion.

Roger Rodas, whom I had never heard of before yesterday, was the driver. He is now more well known as a result, and it is of course a tragedy that he lost his life. As the driver, it may emerge that he bears some responsibility for the accident but he was a professional driver and Paul was a simple passenger. This is not a retread of Ryan Dunn's drunk driving accident and they did not 'deserve' this.

Roger should be remembered, and he will be, to those whom he influenced. But he meant less to most movie goers personally than Paul.

And while that all sounds silly, that a famous film star could mean anything to you, think about what cinema can mean to people. The escapism and enjoyment it offers to millions of people, across the world.

Think about every boy who took a girl on a misjudged Fast and Furious film date, and made it work anyway. Think about every Sunday afternoon spent with friends laughing and being thrilled and that awful, overpriced popcorn you all ate. The family gathered at night, united by a universal dislike for 2 Fast 2 Furious starting on ITV2, and watching it anyway. The students who spend a hangover with flatmates rewinding that great bit in Fast Five over and over until the DVD breaks.

Those memories are all real, and Paul Walker was a part of them. To tell anyone that they are not allowed to miss Paul Walker and his work is wrong.

Of course, none of this compares to the grief of Walker's family, and his daughter especially. But it is something, and if you liked his work you are entitled to miss him. You're entitled to feel a little loss at one of the 'good guys', a well mannered famous actor who dedicated time to his fans and to charity.

If that is what it means to stand at the altar of the cult of celebrity, then so be it.

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