Satire | Celebrity death fanfiction is dumb and bad. Stop it.

By Paige Wasserman, For The Pitt News

Much to my detriment, I am woefully, chronically online.

I spend an embarrassing amount of hours on social media subjecting myself to the stupidity of humankind. In my opinion, Twitter is the perfect venue for such internet-aided brain frying. The folks that populate Twitter are not there to flaunt their gorgeous, skinny lives a-la-Instagram — they are there to projectile vomit into the void. Twitter gives you a Shein bikini that doesn’t fit and an empty sunscreen bottle and says, “Hop on in, the water’s fine!” except the water is piss. In this peepee pool, we grieve the deaths of our favorite celebrities in ways that make the One Direction Wattpad girlies look like recipients of the Pulitzer Prize.

I first stumbled upon a heaven fanfiction of Virgil Abloh, Kobe and Gigi Bryant, Juice Wrld, Pop Smoke and Betty White whose misuse of quotation marks could violate the Geneva Convention. Then, this bizarre photoshop of Jeopardy!: Deceased Celebrity Edition made me regret having eyes. Finally, I found the cherry on top — Kerry Washington’s imagining of a DMX X Prince Philip afterlife collab, which is an egregious waste of everyone’s time. The disease has infected the celebrities, too! It’s just like the time Tom Hanks got COVID-19.

This new-ish trend of fictionalizing a cultural figure’s transition to the afterlife is not only cringeworthy, but it speaks to the narcissism of the digital age, parasocial interaction, deep cultural insensitivity and just an adamant refusal to think critically.

I have never experienced adult life without social media, so I can’t accurately speak to a major shift in our culture. I pose a question to my older readers — have people always been this tasteless about celebrity deaths? It can’t just be a Gen-Z thing, so save your foaming-at-the-mouth “this generation!” rant for happy hour at your townie bar. It’s almost always the Hillary-Clinton-Kamala-Harris-Buzzfeed-HelloFresh-heckin-doggo-Target-Pride-Month-Collection millennial neolibs who are performing their grief. It takes a certain level of delusion to think, “I am Katharine. I am a barista. Poet. Artist. Dog mom. Visionary. And my 231 followers want to hear what I HAVE TO SAY about the death of Betty White!” Has Katharine seen an episode of “The Golden Girls?” No. But she knows exactly what transpired at the gates of heaven because fun fact — Katharine is God, and God is a woman with bangs and that, my friends, is feminism.

Why must you, a person who has never met this figure, broadcast your grief? You’re not a friend or a loved one. You’re Dave from IT. If you want attention for your creative prowess, audition for your community theater production of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.” Stop clogging my brain pipes with this toxic waste. Bob Saget was America’s Dad? What about your own dad? You know, the dad who wrote you into his will? The dad who paid for your master’s degree? Danny Tanner didn’t teach you how to ride a bike, you buffoon. Call your father. He wants to tell you about his new Peloton and also ask you for help because he doesn’t know how to use it.

Maybe I’d tolerate the blithering idiocy of these tweets if they were historically accurate. But the image of RBG, John Lewis and John McCain celebrating Joe Biden’s election together?! And they’re drinking champagne?! THESE PEOPLE WOULD NEVER HANG OUT! This nightmare blunt rotation has the same energy as you and your third cousin at a family reunion — small talk for three agonizing minutes before you escape to the Costco charcuterie spread, find your mother and beg her to load the family back into the Jeep Patriot.

A lot of these keyboard devotees are forgetting that not everyone is a Christian, and not everyone wants to be honored in the context of the afterlife. Someone with the name Ginsburg does not subscribe to the concept of heaven or hell, as Jewish religious texts leave the afterlife mostly undiscussed. Between “RIP Stephen Sondheim,” people scheduling meetings on Rosh Hashanah and claims of the “War on Christmas,” it becomes more apparent to me every day that the American psyche has been colonized into flippancy. People don’t care about Jews, and I know this because I had swastikas etched into my desks in high school — but that’s a story for another day. Jews are not the only folks who are subject to this stupidity though. Both Buddhists and Hindus believe in the concept of samsara, which is essentially the reincarnation of the soul until one reaches enlightenment, and even that’s a gross simplification. If you really care about honoring your hero’s legacy, maybe know something about their culture. I hate to be like “Name three of their songs,” but seriously, name three of their songs, for the love of Hashem.

I understand it hurts to see a personal hero pass away. That’s perfectly human! But these tweets are so corny. A perfectly tasteful tribute would be a story about the celebrity’s impact on your life. Better yet, you could donate to a cause that your idol supported, such as these animal charities that Betty White championed throughout her life. As a person who loves creative writing and loves attention even more, I know for a fact that the authors of these tweets are manufacturing grief for likes and retweets, which is wildly disrespectful to these celebrities and their mourning friends and families. In the eternal words of Hillary Clinton’s social media intern, “Delete your account.” 

Paige Wasserman (she/her) writes about the arts, pop culture, campus culture and things that make her want to scream. You can reach her at [email protected].