What makes this year stand out from other years when celebrities have died? We lost good people in 2015, 2014, and so on back through the years. I remember John Lennon’s murder and the outpouring of grief that went worldwide. The assassination of John F Kennedy gave (a grisly) birth to a thousand cottage industries of conspiracy theory, historical analysis, memoir, Baby Boomer rite of passage, speculative fiction, you name it.

It was not just the quality of cultural leading lights we lost — we lost so many good ones I had to remember we lost Muhamad Ali, too, only because I thought that guy was immortal — but the coincidence of two large demographics, Boomers and Millenials, and my fellow Gen Xers squashed between then, having been long exposed to a vibrant mass cultural industry operating through multiple, expanding media outlets. In other words, more people than ever got to nourish themselves on cultural product via more platforms and more expressions of fandom than ever previously possible. So when someone with enormous cultural cachet — a Bowie, an Ali, a Fisher — dies, their fandoms grieve with a lot of megaphones.

I do not doubt such grief is real. I have been mourning Bowie all year long. I took a break to celebrate the Nobel Prize for Literature awarded to Bob Dylan, and to enjoy the weird, chaotic way he has responded to it. Honestly, I needed the comic relief from the horrible, no-good, very bad election that dredged deeper depths of hatred and despair than I thought my country was capable of (and I’m not exactly an optimist about my country.)

Which leads to another contributing factor to our overwhelming sense of grief: the loss of so many great people compounded the sense of doom and fear this election year generated. I am not the first or the last to remark upon this problem; it’s a cliche already. But it is nonetheless true. We end the year with such dread of what the next year will bring, what the next Most Powerful Man in The World will do to all of us, based on real fears that no amount of normalizing or two-party-system-sucks handwaving will trivialize. We are going to need more than pop stars, boxers, actors, and other great entertainers to get us through this.

Anyway, I post this a couple days early so that I don’t let the New Year’s Eve weekend get in the way of it. I wanted to cap this year with one more look back. Have a great, safe time! See you in the new year.

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