Suddenly everyone is a David Bowie fan. People will become indignant merely by my casting doubt on their loyalty to Mr. Bowie and refusing to ride the grief bandwagon. Oh well. Alas, the Crocs fit and must be worn by all who ride.
What does it say about ourselves and our culture when we feel the need to insert our life stories into the lives of people we never knew and collectively grieve when they die? Even the people at Crocs had to get in on the David Bowie mourning bandwagon. Really? What do Crocs have to do with David Bowie? Nothing.
I think it says we are looking for meaning in all the wrong places. It says “we” think we’re as important to the story as the poor man who died. The outpouring of “wasn’t David Bowie awesome” posts has reminded me, ever so vaguely of the death of Princess Diana. Albeit in a much smaller manner, someone famous is dead and it seems everyone wants to get their two cents in about how this death (and that person’s life) has impacted their own. I could, to one extent, understand Diana’s mourners. She had removed landmines in Bosnia. People believed they knew Diana. No one really did. However, that didn’t matter.
We hear few stories about David Bowie the person. No one relates when they downloaded their last David Bowie single. What were his iTunes sales before Sunday night? I suspect most people can’t remember. We read his fans talking about themselves and their lives. When they recall these moments David Bowie happened to be in the background. Does this mean they knew David Bowie? Is Bowie the center of their story? No, they are the center of their story. Bowie’s music is the background noise to the nostalgia which we believe links our common experiences. Our sole common experience is that Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram allow us to share our narcissistic fantasies under one hyper-textual roof.
David Bowie’s death has provided our self-absorbed culture another opportunity to do what it does best, to talk it about itself under the plausibly deniable cover of someone else’s sorrow. Go through theses posts, you won’t read about David Bowie or his legacy. You’ll read article after article on how “David Bowie changed my life.” Why do we have to make the death of someone famous about us, our tastes, or our supposed interactions with someone we never met? Because, my friends, it appears we have nothing better to do. That’s a shame.