One morning this week I opened up my Yahoo! Instant Messenger account and read the latest celebrity hoax – Jackie Chan is dead. Jackie Chan is dead?! I never knew he died. I am always out of the loop on these kinds of antics. But I ask you, our readers, just what is up with our national preoccupation with celebrity deaths?
Celebritys’ deaths are so popular a subject that it has been elevated to the level of our intentionally “faking” their deaths. In July 2010, rumors of Lindsay Lohan’s death were spread, thanks to the efforts of a troublemaker that changed her Wikipedia page and even went so far as to create a fake Kim Kardashian Twitter account, complete with tweets that propagated the gossip.
There must be a connection with Kim Kardashian having married NBA player Kris Humphries this past Saturday if a year prior someone felt compelled to kill off Lindsay Lohan through fake Kim tweets: one gets to live happily ever after and the other is forced to meet a tragic and abrupt end.
There seems to be a mean streak to many of our celebrity death hoaxes. In 2007, Paris Hilton was said to be dead while serving time in jail. Concocted rumors had her stabbed dead by a jail mate. Those in need of a media fix on Paris Hilton created their own content by falsely claiming she was dead. As if being in jail was not punishment enough for Paris.
Other celebrity hoaxes include Justin Bieber, who beginning in 2009 has since been rumored a whopping 6 times to have committed suicide, all of which were linked to drugs. Poor Justin Bieber, or the “Biebs,” as we fondly call him.
Our symbol of a national, healthy and wholesome teen idol has borne the brunt of many mean hoaxes to taint his image. Death hoaxes are not new fodder; as far back as 1945 Franklin Roosevelt was also falsely rumored to have died. The greatest of media celebrity hoaxes took place in the 60’s, with the overriding headlines, “Paul is dead”.
It was believed for quite some time that Paul McCartney of the Beatles had died. Fans were so enthralled with the possibility of Paul McCartney being dead that they combed album covers for clues and played the White Album “Revolution 9” backwards to hear the words “Turn me on, dead man.” The hoax was so prevalent that “Paul is Dead” is now urban legend.
Like Madonna’s “Truth or Dare,” some of us do dare to cross the line of deliberately and deceptively faking a famous person’s death. We can blame the accelerating rash of death hoaxes on the speed of the internet being able to quickly spread these rumors into our media lives. In 2011 there have been no fewer than 10 celebrity death hoaxes already.
It seems celebrity death hoaxes are very much alive and well!
See a slideshow of the most famous celebrity death hoaxes here.