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With the loss of the celebrities, Gen X ponders mortality

 

Princess Leia was our first girl movie heroine, and we made our mothers braid brunette yarn, so that we earmuff buns for Halloween. Carol Brady of “The Brady Bunch” was the ideal mother we probably won’t have, because our mothers had to work and showed us latchkey children alone at home, with TV and processed foods are our only companions.

Carrie Fisher and Florence Henderson — and other icons of the Generation X childhood are now gone, stolen by the cruel thief that is 2016. The year of the generation born between the 1960s and the early 1980s, wallowing in the memories and contemplating his own mortality.

“It is a very melancholy time,” sighed Shelly Ransom, a 47-year-old speech-language pathologist in Darien, Connecticut. “This is really reducing a lot of the teenage angsty feelings. These people are deemed still the voices of my generation. It is sad to see that these artists not to our voice.”

Or, if tired, 51-year-old Lawrence Feeney, a filmmaker from New Port Richey, Florida, wrote: “You lose George Michael and Carrie Fisher in a three-day span, you feel like you’ve gotten a few daggers thrown at you.”

Throughout the year, office calls, dinner, discussions, and social media has exploded with disbelief, sadness and fear, but as an ’80s celebrity after another have died, to start in January with David Bowie.


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David Bowie

(Graham Willshire/Redferns)

The feelings are particularly acute for the Generation X, whose members came of age when many of these cultural figures were also popular.

We adored Bowie in the movie “Labyrinth” and danced to “Modern Love” of the prom. We remember reading the words “Purple Rain” on the theatre marquee and wondered why that little man in high heels was so sexy. We made out fervently in cars in high school as George Michael sang on the FM dial (not to mention the radio? It was decades before Spotify, and you couldn’t choose your music).

“We are the generation that can change the world. When I was a young man, I saw people of my age standing in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square and tearing down of the Berlin Wall. Now I find myself complaining about the arthritis in my hands and taking care of my elderly parents,” complained Rob Withrow, a 43-year-old landscape contractor in Palm Bay, Palm Bay, Florida.

He added: “The musicians that I admired growing up are now dying off. Hopefully, I already have a few decades left in me, but the reality of the die is much clearer to see.”


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Prince performs during the Super Bowl halftime show in 2007

(Reuters)

Of course, this happens to every generation: Our idols are dying, and we suddenly our youth slipping away.

But Lou Manza, a professor of psychology at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pennsylvania, said the baby boomers and the older generations were not as invested or connected to their celebrities. Generation X had MTV, pop stars like Prince and Bowie in our homes, in heavy rotation.

That, combined with the immediacy and intimacy of the 21st century social media — then we knew the platinum-haired punk rocker Billy Idol turned 61 because Facebook informed us, for example — reinforced the sadness.

“Our parents in the 70s would hear about a celebrity death on the nightly news, the next day in the newspaper,” Manza said. “Now there are more and more of an immediacy with each successive generation.”

Sarah McBride Wagner, a 37-year-old writer in Weirton, West Virginia, said social media has a place for collective mourning.


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George Michael performs during the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS awareness in London in 1992

(Reuters)

“We have never met these people. Yet we are all so influenced by it,” she said. “Shared grief makes it bigger and better.”

For some, the death of a beloved child figures, reminds us of the passage of the people closer to us and of the passing of time, seems more like a fast jog.

“We are at the age when we really start to see ourselves in our parents. My son of just 10, and it occurred to me that if he hung out with my parents who really don’t plan to for many years before my husband and I, my parents, and he is us,” said Amanda Forman, a 38-year-old mother of three, and a writer of Flourtown, Pennsylvania.

“The celebrity deaths of people we have admired worsen those feelings. I think that in the case of the graduates who are a little older, it gives us the feeling like we’re that much closer, that our generation is the following. And it makes us feel like our youth is that there are many more behind us.”

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