This is going to be a rather brief observation as I am currently sharing the lunch break I usually dedicate to this blog with my preparation of a presentation I need to give in a few hours.
I think about this every time I see the morbid fascination that surrounds a celebrity when they die, and now that it has come to my attention that the top selling book in the US at the moment is a biography of Steve Jobs, the age-old question comes back again: why, why WHY do we become so fascinated with people when they die? Why should our opinion of them change depending on whether or not they are alive?
Despite the title of this post I am not trying to insinuate that Steve Jobs was a boring person. His biography may well be quite interesting. However I don't pretend for a moment that it would be this discussed or widely purchased if it had not been released right after his untimely (though not unexpected) death. Is it weird that I don't suddenly find someone more interesting after they have died? Sure if someone dies completely unexpectedly, like Amy Winehouse or Brittney Murphy or Heath Ledger I might wind up thinking about them for a bit a couple days later and muse over what a shame it is, but it doesn't make me any more interested in buying a book about them or a movie they starred in.
A perfect example of this is when Michael Jackson died. After he dies all of a sudden everyone, even people who never liked him, started saying "oh well I never thought he was a pedophile anyway". What?? I'm sorry, although no one but the victims will ever be sure of what happened, my personal thoughts on the matter did not get knocked off course with the last beat of MJ's heart. That is ridiculous. I still think that he was guilty of what he was accused of, because I am not a hypocrite. I came to my conclusions based on what I knew of the case and what I heard from someone I knew who worked for him, not because I thought he was a freak or because I felt bad for him after he died unexpectedly. No new information regarding the case came out right before or after he died, and yet public opinion regarding his guilt suddenly shifted dramatically simply because he stopped breathing. Why?
I suppose I'll never fully understand it, although I do think that it can be done quite unconsciously by people and can change if they are made aware of it. Quite the same way some people let race unconsciously affect their judgement of people, which changes when they are made aware of it, I think many people don't notice how their opinions change about someone after their death. Compound that with an old cultural undertone of having "respect for the dead", this phenomenon has become easily exploitable from a marketing perspective.
Do you ever find yourself falling into this line of thinking?