Faux celebrity deaths gaining ground

Photo: The Urban Daily

Twitter was alight with condolences on September 3, the day Michael Clarke Duncan died. A week later, fans lamented over the death of another beloved star: Morgan Freeman.

“At about 5 p.m. ET on Thursday, our beloved actor Morgan Freeman passed away due to a artery rupture,” the facebook page announcing his death read. “Morgan was born on June 1, 1937. He will be missed but not forgotten. Please show your sympathy and condolences by commenting on and liking this page.” The page has over 950,000 likes.

There’s just one problem: Morgan Freeman is not actually dead.

His announced demise was simply another hoax in a string of increasingly-popular sham celebrity “deaths.” Other non-casualties of 2012 include Bill Cosby, Paris Hilton and Adam Sandler.

It may be difficult to pinpoint the genesis of the public’s obsession with faux- celebrity deaths, but the most egregious recent example dates back to 2009, when media outlets reported on the death of actor Jeff Goldblum. Shortly after, the actor showed up on “The Colbert Report” to announce that he was, in fact, still very much alive.

The entertainment world is still reeling from a year inundated with the actual deaths of the likes of Tony Scott, Robin Gibb, Adam Yauch and Whitney Houston, along with Clarke Duncan, whose memorial page stand at just above 700,000 likes, far below Freeman’s page.

The Twitter responses to the hoax fluctuate between positive and negative, accommodating and obscene.

“One day, Morgan Freeman is going to die for real,” said Twitter user ‘hrmcewan.’ “And nobody’s going to give a s—t.”


“The Dark Knight Rises” and the legacy of Aurora


No, I haven’t written for this site for a while. In fact, one could say I have let it idle. There are several reasons for that. But, the main reason is Aurora.

Yes, the horrendous shooting that shocked the nation almost two months ago may is still doing just that. As new revelations about the shooter, James Holmes, seem to be a near-daily occurrence, many are still reeling from the sheer magnitude of the tragedy.

For the longest time, I wondered how such a tragedy could be expressed in words. Some tried, to varying degrees of success, but there was still something missing for me. I didn’t want to write about it, and still don’t, because I sense that something has changed. I didn’t feel like writing a review for “The Dark Knight.” I didn’t feel like watching very many movies.

Before that fateful night of July 20, the cinema was never a place where we even entertained the thought of violence apart from what was occurring on screen. Sure, there was incidents like the infamous theater bombing in Paris during a screening of The Last Temptation of Christ. But things like that don’t happen in the U.S.

But it did. Now, the theater is a place of risk, just like anywhere else. Rather than an arena of escape, the theater is now inescapably and tragically a reminder of the real world in which we live.

Critic Roger Ebert put it rather bluntly when he wrote for the New York Times:

“Should this young man — whose nature was apparently so obvious to his mother that, when a ABC News reporter called, she said “You have the right person” — have been able to buy guns, ammunition and explosives? The gun lobby will say yes. And the endless gun control debate will begin again, and the lobbyists of the National Rifle Association will go to work, and the op-ed thinkers will have their usual thoughts, and the right wing will issue alarms, and nothing will change. And there will be another mass murder.”

Yes, but what to do in the meantime? Some say it’s time for stricter gun control. Others cry for more transparency in diagnosing and treating mental disorders. Still others go to the movies, and some don’t.

Todd McCarthy, writing for The Hollywood Reporter, encourages moviegoers to keep calm and carry on.

“Along with mourning for the victims and the proper punishment of the culprit, I would vigorously support a public (not industry-sponsored) mass movement to reinstate the primacy and pleasure of movie theater attendance as one of the great communal entertainment experiences. Any fear and trepidation people feel must be honored and acknowledged but also overcome. If some people feel like staying home for a while, so be it. But a lone maniac with delusions of homicidal grandeur can’t be allowed to hold our most basic desires for creative, social and escapist gratification hostage.”

This is easier said than done. The magic of the cinema was lost on July 20. It may not come back again–not for a long time.