On Sunday, as many of you already know, retired NBA basketball player Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash, along with his 13-year old daughter and seven other people. You would have thought a god had died the way people fell on their faces in the street at the news of Kobe’s passing. He was a great basketball player, sure, but he was a human being like everyone else. I suppose some would say he was a “basketball god.”
I sometimes wish others who died tragically, like soldiers or police officers, were mourned the same way. I won’t say the news didn’t hit me in any way. It did. I was immediately heartbroken for his family and even more so when I leaned his daughter was on board. I never really watched Kobe play because I am not a huge basketball fan but I had definitely heard of him. He graduated school the same year as I did and I followed his career some because my brother predicted during some famous high school game that he would be drafted out of high school and be super famous. And he was, of course.
Showing that we as a society have a complete lack of decorum when faced with the death of a celebrity, not even 24 hours after the accident people were putting things online between the pilot and air control, questioning if the pilot made the right decision. Others were sharing private stories about the victims before the coroner even confirmed they died. One newspaper didn’t even let the adoration last a day. By the next morning, they were already dragging skeletons out of Kobe’s closet, reminding the world Bryant had once been accused of rape. The keyword being “accused” because the case never went to trial but was instead settled out of court (although I’d say if there was settling going on then someone, ahem, was pretty sure he was guilty.).
Oddly, unlike what happens with others, this 2003 incident was widely overlooked and ignored by the general public at the news of Kobe’s death. Had the alleged incident happened in the age of “me too” Kobe, rightly so, would have been blacklisted and no one would have ever accepted his insistence the incident was consensual. They also might not have worshiped him outside the Staple Center yesterday. The charges were settled out of court after the 19-year old accuser’s story started to crumble and Kobe confessed to a consensual one night stand and adultery.
Now that Kobe has died tragically, after being at the height of his career for so long, should we ignore his past mistake and pretend it never happened? I don’t think so but I also think that maybe his remains could be recovered and put in the ground with his daughter’s before we start salivating over the less “pretty” details of his past. I love how one columnist took him to task about how he handled the past incident without knowing the man or even the details of what really transpired between him and the girl, or even the character of the girl.
I know everyone (including me) generally balk at the idea of questioning an alleged victim, but there were those who thought the young lady saw dollar signs once she realized who she slept with. I hope that isn’t true and I hope she has found healing all these years later, regardless of what truly happened. And I truly, truly do not advocate victim-blaming/shaming and am only playing Devil’s advocate here. I have a horrible feeling, after reading past reports about the case, she was not seeking fame at all and was telling the truth. I can not imagine the conflicting feelings she is dealing with now, if she is even still alive after all the victim shaming she received from the media and Kobe fans back in 2003.
Here we are, though, taking him to task while his body is lifeless on a hill in California, waiting to be ID’d by the coroner’s office. He should be taken to task, yes, absolutely, and he has been over the years (and will continue to be), but I don’t see how doing it now, seconds to hours after it was revealed he died, helps his wife and daughters heal. I hope to God they are staying away from media reports. Members of the media just love to praise and trash someone in the same breath (much like my mother-in-law.)
There really is no decorum when a celebrity dies and though I am not among the many celebrity worshippers of this country, I think it’s awful. I don’t actually hold celebrities (not even the Christian ones) on a pedestal. I find it aggravating that so many news sites feature so-called “news” about celebrities at the top of the page, as if I care that they cried during their Grammy performance, are making out with this or that person, or their dress was so see-through they might as well not have been wearing it.
I might enjoy a movie they are in or like a song they sing but I don’t bow to their shrines of popularity and narcissism. Face it, to be a celebrity is to possess at least a tinge of narcissism, if not a whole helping. Wallflowers don’t generally go running into the spotlight. People who are self-focused and what everyone else to be focused on them, do. Actors and singers are somewhat mentally ill, in that they crave and are validated by the attention of others to the point they almost whither away without it.
However, that mental illness is something all of us possess if it is tapped into. Think about how our hearts skip a beat if someone “likes” one of our social media posts (or even our blog posts). And if we log into a site and there is a whole row of notifications telling us we are important. Oh my. We are in endorphins and dopamine heaven. We get a shot of dopamine each time we are complimented, praised, or paid attention to, and that’s addictive to any human being. If it wasn’t, Zuckerberg and his cronies wouldn’t be so rich.
But then there is the flip side of all that attention celebrities crave and then receive. Eventually, the attention can become unwanted by the celebrity as it spills over into the personal life, into the past, into every nitty-gritty detail that really isn’t anyone’s business. Did that celebrity wear “blackface” one time when they were a kid because they wanted to look like a famous black person on Halloween? Completely unaware that trying to make their costume more realistic would later be harkened as racist in the future, they carried on, only to be labeled “ignorant, racist scum” once an adult. Does the public really have to know about a celebrity’s sexual dysfunction or their brother who died in a tragic way or their every painful moment in their life, simply because they opened up one side of themselves — the talented side?
The public always wants more and claims the celebrity “asked for it” because they put themselves in the limelight. First, wow. Isn’t that what rapists say about their victims? And isn’t the public, in a way, violating a celebrity’s rights by continually demanding to know every detail of their life? Second, they only put their talent in the limelight, which doesn’t give the public the right to have access to every dark corner of their soul. Only God has that right.
The thing is, the same adoring fans who once lifted you up and praise you, will rip you down and eat you alive not even 24 hours later. Kobe is being mourned now, but as we see with the article reminding us of his past sins, it won’t be long before some will begin to spit on his grave, and it will come before the week is out. (Right after I wrote this several articles came up about his past sins, so… it didn’t even make 48 hours.)
Or, will the celebrity worshippers win and will Kobe join the ranks of Michael Jackson, Elvis, Freddie Mercury and so many others who battled demons that no one considers or mentions while in mid-bow. Maybe the big difference with Kobe is that his life reflected change and he worked hard to leave his demons behind.
In the case of the others, they lived risky lives or hurt others and never had the chance to make amends (if they had ever wanted to) yet celebrity worshippers still bow at their memories. And yet another maybe: Maybe it’s okay to remember the talent these celebrities had and to honor that talent, while also remembering we shouldn’t live like them by taking drugs, abusing children or sleeping around and contracting diseases. We can also remember that these celebrities and we have something in common – we are humans created in the image of God and because he gave us free will, we will fail, we will fall, and are imperfect. Some of us will learn from our failings in time to save us and some of us will succumb to those failings, like some of the celebrities I mentioned above.
I only hope that no matter what leads to our end, a self-made tragedy or an accidental one, that our society one day develops more decorum when discussing our passing. I hate to leave it on a negative note but looking at the state of our world today, I don’t have much faith that will ever happen.