I think I was about 12 years old when I first started thinking about what it meant to be part of a celebrity fandom. I had a pretty major crush on Julian Lennon. (In hindsight I’m pretty sure this crush stemmed from my love of The Beatles and the crushing reality that I couldn’t for some reason legitimately have a crush on John.)
A cynical friend of mine said, “Why do you like him so much? It’s not like you’re going to meet him and get married.”
She was right, of course, but I hadn’t ever really thought I would meet and marry him. I just liked the way I felt thinking about what he might be like as a person and I can still conjure up those feelings when I hear certain songs from his album, Valotte.
My friend’s comments didn’t stop me from amassing quite a few celebrity crushes in my life, not the least of which is my almost life long crush on Wil Wheaton and my heady girl crush on Felicia Day. Both of those crushes stem from a place of appreciation, for who they are and what they’ve come to represent to me about myself, and about the power of popular geek culture.
This is what’s important to us plebeians about celebrities. It’s not often about who they are, really, or even the fact that we don’t really know them (although we can’t ignore the projection we do into those dark spots of identity that are left out of most public images). Each celebrity crush I’ve cultivated marks a specific time of my life, part of the evolution of my own identity, and often the identity of the celeb as well.
So I could understand another friend laughing at my crush on Jimmy Fallon because all she could see was his giggling, stoner face from SNL when all I see is the most excited, puppy like face of a new dad hosting The Tonight Show. Watching his excitement at being a new dad, and the love with which he talks about his daughter speaks to some of the same transformations I’ve gone through becoming a mom.
Dear reader, you might be asking what does this have to do with celebrities dying? It’s easy for me to understand how many people can have strong feelings about celebrities passing away. It’s like you lose a little bit of yourself along with them and that can mark the end of an era of your life as well.
I will forever remember David Bowie when I’m singing the painful harmonies on Rock Band 3 and will still cringe at his piercing stare as the Goblin King when I eventually share Labrynth with my daughter.
Alan Rickman became Snape for me. Never has an actor in a movie based on a book replaced the image I first had of the character until Rickman. His performance and his ownership of that character, transcended the screen and the page. I know I am not alone in this sentiment because the most outstanding internet memorial for him going around is a single lily placed by the potions classroom door at Hogwarts in London.
And to this day, I still miss Robin Williams.
What celebrities hold a special place in your heart or mark a specific time in your life?
Have you mourned their loss more intensely?
Regina is a gamer, writer, teacher, and podcaster living in the Pacific Northwest. She completed her Ph.D. in 2011 from Washington State University in Vancouver and continues to teach there part time. Regina’s research interests focus on women and technology, and her dissertation discusses female gamers and identity in digital role playing games. A lifelong geek and technology enthusiast, Regina recently started a Girls Who Code club in support of their mission to close the gender gap in technology.
To continue the conversations about gender and gaming that Regina started during her research, she started a podcast called Game on Girl. Called the “NPR of game podcasts” by Chris Brown of The Married Gamers, the podcast features women involved in the game industry, and tackles some of the complicated issues in the gaming community. Season 2 began in the spring of 2018 and will premiere new episodes monthly.