Tag Archives: celebrity

Ode to Alan Rickman

“…the late Alan Rickman,” said the host of The Frame.

Hope is one of denial’s most powerful allies. Upon hearing these words on the radio, I was seized with the impulse to stop the car and fact-check, much as I had initially doubted the veracity of Monday’s news that David Bowie had passed away. But this passing was more personal. Or, to be more accurate, I’m a bigger fan of Alan Rickman. He first caught my notice in Galaxy Quest as my preferred type of comedy relief–self-effacing and intellectual–and quickly morphed into one of my secret celebrity crushes. Hearing, unexpectedly, that he had died actually made me feel something.

This past summer, I wrote an ode to Alan Rickman in the style of The Toast’s delightful “If X were you Y” series. Like most of my inexplicable infatuations with older actors, admitting to the depth of my fandom was embarrassing. But in light of Rickman’s passing, I’d like to share it as a sort of tribute.

If Alan Rickman were your boyfriend…

If Alan Rickman were your boyfriend, he would join you and your friends at karaoke, thrilling you all with renditions of 90’s hits sung two octaves lower than originally intended, inciting gales of giggles. After each number, he’d collapse beside you on the sticky bench and high-five whoever was up next.

If Alan Rickman were your boyfriend, at least once a month he’d indulge in some top notch Hans-Gruber-from-Die Hard role play, delighting you with his sensual German accent. Sometimes he would even speak in German. Try as you might to control yourself, you would swoon. Repeatedly.

If Alan Rickman were your boyfriend, he would let his hair go grey for keeps and encourage you to do the same…if that were what you wanted. Some days you would pretend you were living in the 70’s, spend an hour feathering each other’s silvery manes, and go out looking for a drum circle at a park or beach. You would be anachronistically dressed, because you’ve already spent a whole hour on your hairstyles, and really, how far can you be expected to take this whole personal grooming thing, anyway?

If Alan Rickman were your boyfriend, he would never deign to open a car door for you because he knows you are perfectly capable of operating them yourself. Unless of course your arms were full of groceries. But he would never let you carry all the groceries. Unless you had insisted.

If Alan Rickman were your boyfriend, he would not expect you to praise his interpretation of Snape, because you would have made it clear from the get-go that your imagination’s interpretation of the book version of the character is sacrosanct, and to bring up the topic at all would be touching the third rail of your relationship, straining it to such a degree that it would be nigh impossible to recover. Impossible, you’d say! He would be whispering to you in a soothing voice right now to help bring you down from the act of thinking about the dire consequences of such a fraught discourse. Breathe. Breathe…

If Alan Rickman were your boyfriend, you would address each other formally over supper at your favorite greasy spoon (i.e., Mr. Rickman, Ms./Mr. [Your Last Name Here]), and chuckle at the absurdity of it all. You would do this quietly, so as not to distract the other diners from their meals.

If Alan Rickman were your boyfriend, he would graciously accept your offer to pick up the check. You would return the favor, triggering an endless spiral of good-natured reciprocity. Neither of you would tire of this ritual. Because that’s how things work in a fantasy.

If Alan Rickman were your boyfriend, he would understand and respect your need to not see him for several days at a time. You have many things to attend to and important people in your life, not all of whom are him.

If Alan Rickman were your boyfriend, you would never have to ask to reenact the pillow talk scene from Snow Cake. He would always, always offer.

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Filed under Contemporary, Nostalgia, Television and Movies

Thoughts Related to Awards Show Season

I was having coffee with someone who mentioned how cool it felt the year she knew a person who had won an Oscar. She described watching the show and pointing at the TV, remarking “hey, it’s Joe!” because she had worked with him in the past. She seemed surprised that she had reacted this way; that she had found that short experience so cool.

The coolness effect that comes with the realization that someone you know is now momentarily famous intrigued me. It is partially a sharing of the prize–in knowing the person you feel a small sense of ownership over their accolades, as if you, by knowing them, had contributed to their recognition/distinction. As if you feel rewarded for knowing someone who was actually rewarded. A closeness to the prize and the public recognition of hard work and talent via your social closeness to the person actually receiving said accolades. It’s not really about the cultural capital, the bragging rights that come from telling the story that you know someone who won a nationally recognized award. And in the instance I began with, it certainly wasn’t name-dropping. (Who the hell is Joe? It didn’t matter that I didn’t know–it only mattered that it was a person she knew.) It was about the coolness of intimately knowing someone who was briefly a public figure.

But it was more the connection itself, and the way the connection works, that interested me in this story. The unexpected delight of not quite a coincidence, but a connecting to thousands (millions?) of nameless others who are simultaneously watching this same person that you know accepting an award. Someone in your life is now connected to everyone else who is witnessing the same event. It is a cool feeling because it means that you are now connected to these strangers–you are all in each others’ lives.

This effect has been discussed before in various ways…how we track our own lives using the lives of celebrities and public figures. This is why media outlets announce the deaths of famous people. Because viewers care. We they to know, in a way. Because it reminds viewers of their own life trajectories. This particular awards show connection phenomenon is a variation on the same theme.

It’s about connecting to strangers through particular people, making these shared people icons/symbols in the process. It solidifies our imagined community; our commonality as mortal beings. And it’s also pretty cool.

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Filed under Contemporary, Media

Nostalgia as in-situ History Creation: A fragment

Occasionally a celebrity will die, or an old commercial tune will come on, or one person will mention a public figure also known to another person of the same generation. These types of scenarios often spark a collective nostalgia performance. And, if there is someone younger about who shows the least bit of curiosity (“who was that?“), or even if they show none, there will most likely be a history telling of this pop-culturally significant nostalgia. “Well, so-and-so was a well-known [insert occupation here] in the late 19[??]s who really [contribution to (pop) culture]…

Most often I experience this around my older relatives, removed by a generation, sometimes only by half a generation, if it’s a cousin who’s significantly older. This is different from sharing different subcultural knowledge. No, this has a historical element. This type of sharing and telling is bolstered by its nostalgia; by its being in the past and no longer being relevant (or present/visible) in the present cultural moment. This is about reliving the pop-culture the experiencer and teller has found important–and that past society has told them is important.

This is pop-culture canonization. Telling about those people and phenomena remembered as significant. Popular culture canonized in peoples’ memories and collected sharings of them as history. As truth about the past. This person I remember that you young’uns don’t was important, and let me tell you why.  (Because I can state some facts about themBecause the media told me they were important once. Because I remember seeing them on TV, hearing that jingle, reading about them in the paper, hearing my parents talk about them…)

What from the now will we each and together decide is worthy of canonization? Worthy of telling about in the future with that glazed-over look of privileged, historically-contingent knowledge. This happens, I suspect, both unconsciously and consciously with the help of media and cultural producers and talking with friends and contemporaries…alone together. When of course everything is mediated, if not in the massive sense of TV and internet, than through other means. But I want to find out: what will we make memorable? Make pop-history? What of the millions of details about popular culture in this very moment will we be able to recall for the younger generations to come?

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Filed under Contemporary, Historical, Media, Nostalgia