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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Mt Holyoke chapter.

A celebrity is a famous person, or someone who is well known and gets the public’s attention, so why is it that there is a phenomenon of people rising to fame postmortem? Can memory and legacy obtain celebrity status on their own? From the looks of it, it appears so. People are morbidly obsessed and fascinated with the concept of death and while lots are more captivated by what comes after, there are a great deal of people out there that listen to or watch true crime, mourn the loss of celebrities they didn’t know, and read murder mystery books. 

Take Vincent Van Gogh, for instance. One of the greats, yet when he was alive, he was just making ends meet. It was only after his death that his paintings became extremely sought-after. This could be due to being ahead of his time stylistically or his lack of motivation to sell his own works, but nevertheless, he still rose to fame postmortem. In history there are all different examples of this as artists tend to be underappreciated while alive– take, for instance, Edgar Allen Poe or Mount Holyoke’s local celebrity Emily Dickinson. I guess it just comes with the job (they aren’t called tortured poets for nothing). 

Untimely Deaths

When a celebrity’s death has an air of mystery or was untimely, fans tend to speculate and jump to conclusions. The media attention that is brought to tragic deaths encourages people to appreciate the person’s life’s work before they gawk and gossip. Take, for instance, Jeff Buckley, as he met his untimely death at just 30 by drowning in a river. No drugs were found in his system and foul play was not suspected. He just got unlucky with the current. So why did this seemingly normal undistinguished death lead to him becoming a cult hero years later? Before death, Buckley had only put out one studio album and two live episodes, yet he still has over 4 million spotify listeners. If Jeff Buckley had lived a long life with just one album out, realistically he would not have accumulated all these listeners. Personally, I admire Buckley and his music due to his natural charisma and his romantic yet equally heart wrenching lyrics. He never had the chance to fade out of fame and grow old, but instead is reminisced upon without ever being able to be truly understood, which adds to the mystery and increases the public scrutiny. 

27 Club

The whole idea of the “27 Club” is a perfect example of how celebrity deaths are unnecessarily theorized about. The 27 club is based upon many famous musicians, like Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, and Janis Joplin, dying due to overdose or other reasons when they are 27. This superstitious cultural phenomenon just deepens the public’s grotesque fascination with the deaths of their idols. While I understand mourning a celebrity, we can’t forget that they were just as human as us and theorizing about their deaths could be harmful to their loved ones. 

 Honestly I don’t get the fascination with celebrity deaths. Yes, it’s sad, but also their greatest works have already been made and are preserved in time, so as a fan you can still appreciate them just as much, just in a different light. Celebrity deaths are a jarring reminder of our own mortality, so perhaps the public are grieving for themselves as much as the deceased celebrity. There’s no clear reason some celebrities spike in fame after death compared to others other than how much their work will appeal to the younger generation.

Keira Shinnick

Mt Holyoke '27

Hi, I'm Keira, a freshman at Mount Holyoke and undecided in my major. I love crocheting, reading, listening to all different types of music, and hiking when I can! I'm obsessed with my dogs, statement jewelry, journaling, and getting a little sweet treat after anything and everything.