When the basketball legend Kobe Bryant was suddenly killed on this day in 2020, with my 13 year old daughter and seven others, in a tragic helicopter crash outside Los Angeles, a cloud of grief enveloped many of us in a way that only a death like his could. .
Losing a celebrity can do just that – causing us to experience an infinite amount of sadness over someone we’ve never even met, but are incredibly surprised to see from a distance. But with Bryant, it was especially difficult.
Icons like Bryant seem ‘invincible.’
Even those who are not huge sports fans can grapple with the utter shock that a very extraordinary person is no longer among us. Those feelings may be tied to the way we see someone like Bryant as “superman.”
“There are celebrities and then there are icons,” Gayle Stever, a psychology professor at SUNY Empire State University who wrote the book, “The Psychology of Celebrity,” told TODAY. “The symbol has a special meaning – it symbolizes something bigger than life. Facing the fact that they are fragile and life-or-death is a blow to our cultural myth of celebrity. In our imagination, they are invincible.”
Steve mentions the deaths of other cultural icons that have sent shockwaves across the globe: Princess Diana, Michael Jackson and Robin Williams.
“In each of those cases, we’re looking at one person over another,” she said.
We create imaginary relationships with famous people.
For those of you who are staunch fans of Bryant and have followed his career closely, the pain may stem from what is known in psychology as a social relationshipor a fake, one-way connection with a person or personality that you don’t really know. It’s the same phenomenon that happens when we get attached to a fictional person. (Have you ever felt grief over the death of a character in a TV show or book?)
Jaye L. Derrick, a professor of social psychology at the University of Houston, told TODAY: “Even though we know this isn’t really a relationship, it still feels like we’re close to that person. .
Stever adds that social media can be crucial in developing these social relationships. Think of all the times people interacted with celebrity posts, some of which pulled the curtain on their personal lives. But celebrities don’t usually reciprocate by looking at fan posts.
“I think we know more about famous people than our neighbors and the people we work with,” says Stever. “If my next door neighbor died, I would feel very bad. But I might not feel the same level of connection if I don’t know the person as well as I know my favorite celebrity. “
Bryant is a basketball hero. He was also a father.
The former Laker player will surely be remembered as one of the greatest basketball players of all time. But after he passed away, his devotion to his children also came first. He left a double legacy: He’s a “superman” with a sporting talent that makes him seem bigger than life and he’s also an ordinary dad who just wants to cheer on his kids. on the sidelines like the rest of us.
“(People) think they are somehow like this person or they simply adore this person or this person could simply be an aspirational character,” Stever said. “I think Kobe Bryant can be a lot of that.”
Derrick says that seeing that into a father’s life “humanizes him”. “There’s a reason people are drawn to ‘celebs just like us’ pictures in magazines.”
Steve echoed that sentiment, saying we are drawn to people we find relatable.
“Then when we lose someone like that, the loss feels double,” she said. “Because he’s not only an iconic super-athlete, he’s also a close friend of the family.”
We are also mourning the loss of a celebrity’s donations.
In the end, the death of a celebrity who has created a legacy due to their genius is highly unlikely. Think Heath Ledger, Robin Williams and Anthony Bourdain. We love watching them do what they do best. With someone like Bryant who has also made an impact on the world in other ways – like a fatheras one humanitarianas one good Samaritan – it’s even harder.
“There was one level of work they did — it was a whole different level of loss,” Stever said. “What can Kobe Bryant do after an active basketball career in terms of charity, in terms of being a commentator? What do we lose now that he’s gone? “
This story first appeared on TODAY.com. More from TODAY:
https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/entertainment/entertainment-news/celebrity-deaths-can-feel-personal-heres-why-kobe-bryants-hits-us-so-hard/3121519/ Celebrity Deaths Can Feel Personal. Here’s Why Kobe Bryant Watched Us So Hard – NBC10 Philadelphia