I guess I’ve reached that age when my childhood heroes, one by one, start to “shuffle off this mortal coil” and head off into the unknown infinite universe.
Even so, losing two great British talents in one week is all a bit too much.
I always feel strange when a famous person dies, especially iconic people like David Bowie and Alan Rickman. I feel a grief that doesn’t quite feel justified—after all I didn’t know these people at all. But still, they both made profound marks on my life—and when I heard of their deaths, I felt a tug in my heart. So when I was finally alone after a day at work, I allowed myself a little sob or two.
When I grieve for them, I suppose I’m grieving for all the people I’ve lost in my life—but I think I’m also grieving for the very special part of human life they represented.
David Bowie, for example, represented a part of human life that is no longer shown in mainstream media—not in an authentic way anyway. In our modern culture we are very good at pretending we are unique and different. But really, we’ve come to an age where the media moguls give us what they think we want—what we already know—rather than anything new. (They even use algorithms and data analysis to plan what they will release, based on what is already popular.) Bowie, on the contrary, represented raw creativity—unguarded and unpolished realness being whatever he felt he needed to be in his own personal evolution, regardless of what people already liked.
Bowie himself was an artwork. Not in the contrived ways that Lady Ga Ga or Miley Cyrus attempt to emulate, but in the sense of a true artist—in the sense that he didn’t give a flying sh*t what you thought. In comparison, our modern day boundary-pushers and pop-stars seem like attention seeking toddlers.
Alan Rickman also represented something precious—he represented the ultimate dry, sarcastic, cut throat wit.
He cut through nonsense, with a word or a look, like no one else and gave off an air of unending fed-up-ness that represented something truly British.
Of course, whereas Bowie was an artist, Rickman was an actor—and so, we only knew him through the characters he was cast as. Even so, he played those parts so well, it’s not hard to believe that that the wit lived in him as well.
As these cultural icons leave us, it feels like we are left with a vacant space.
Where are the truly avant-garde in our mainstream culture now? We’ve sleep-walked into a culture of safe mundane niceness that tries to be everything to everybody. We took our icons for granted, thinking they’d always be there. Now, when we seem only to value people who fit in—who are ‘”nice” to each other or who express their individuality in a markedly nonthreatening way—we’ve silenced real evolutionary (and scary) creativity.
Even Lady Ga Ga and Miley Cyrus stay this side of outrageous—just outrageous enough to be noticed, but not outrageous enough to really shake the foundations of our perception of normal or to really give the establishment the willies. (Mainstreaming pornography and covering oneself in bacon is hardly a threat.)
Although I speak of despair—there may be hope.
Now that Bowie and Rickman have left us and their earthly forms, they leave a space for—perhaps—a new generation to fill. That kinetic energy of creativity and pure bloody-mindedness is now released into the ether for you and I to collect up like fallen stars.
When great people die, they leave behind something absolutely precious.
They remind us of how important their presence was—and that they represented something to be valued and to never be forgotten.
Author: Suzanne Williams
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina