STORY BY JEFF HERSHEWAY
In the last month, we have lost two of the most influential comedians this nation has ever seen: Robin Williams and Joan Rivers.
However, I find it incredibly interesting how each of their names has become synonymous with a certain legend or icon status in some circles, when in fact it was those same circles that denounced both Rivers’ and Williams’ work.
Before I find the angry villagers at my Goodwin-Kirk doorstep, I want to make one thing perfectly clear: I recognize the impact that both Williams and Rivers have made in the realm of comedy, and I respect it.
However, the public has to stop adopting these people into this pseudo-sainthood culture associated with death. Despite the many good things that both Williams and Rivers contributed to pop culture, I know many people who disliked them. Hated them, even.
In Joan’s case, the comedian had come under fire time and time again for what she called “insult comedy,” making low-brow remarks about celebrities’ weight, facial features and, most famously, fashion choices. Of course she was forgiven because that was just her brand of comedy, she even pokedfun at her own celebrity, mocking her multiple plastic surgeries. Still, it cannot be denied that she often took jokes too far and refused to apologize, even saying that Palestinians “deserve to be dead.”
Again, I have no gripe with the recently deceased comedian and television personality. It is the people who pretend they never disliked her in the first place that get to me.
It’s as though our culture has a way of strapping on rose-colored sunglasses whenever a celebrity passes. We suddenly refuse to acknowledge any sort of negative images of them in order to adopt them in some sort of venerated hall of fame or sainthood.
Take, for another example, Michael Jackson. The King of Pop was accused multiple times of child molestation and became the butt of many jokes from the trial all the way up to his death. All of a sudden, the same people who told Michael Jackson jokes were now claiming that they had been fans of his ever since they heard his magnus opus, “Thriller.”
I understand respecting the dead’s memory, but the dishonesty that comes with it gets under my skin.
Just because a celebrity passes away doesn’t mean you have to bow down at their memorial and claim to have always liked them. You don’t have to feel bad for not liking people after they pass away. You’re not going to hell for not feeling anything when the press announced Rivers’ or Williams’ death.
Death is sad regardless of who passed, and we should treat the dead with respect. But that doesn’t mean you should act as though they were the best thing you had going for your life.
Do not lie to people for the sake of contributing to the conversation.
Death is not a trending topic, and we shouldn’t feel the need to defend famous people we knew absolutely nothing about in our regular lives. If you don’t like somebody, don’t pretend to be a fan.
You can respect the dead, but please, I beg of you, do not lie about them.