Yesterday, the rock world lost a legend. Chester Bennington. The Linkin Park front man committed suicide and was found hanging at his home. He was forty-one years old and he leaves behind six children. There was (and continues to be) an outpouring of tributes for the singer with some of my Facebook friends and people in my Facebook groups saying that his music got them through difficult times in their lives and expressing their grief at his sudden demise.
I know Linkin Park because my classmates in secondary school would occasionally mention the name. But to say that I am familiar with their work in any way would be a big farce. I don’t even like rock music. I like my music less…….screamy. However, it is always sad when someone dies so I empathize with the people who have been deeply affected by this young man’s passing.
Chester apparently was suffering from depression. I believe that there is an interview that he did just recently talking about battling with the disease. I haven’t read it but I can’t help but think that in that very moment that the interview wasn’t being conducted with Chester from Linkin Park but in an interview like that, in a moment like that the reporter was talking to Chester Bennington. Only she didn’t really hear him.
At the end of it all, and quite selfishly so, we cannot as a populace nor do we know how to separate the individual from the celebrity. Trust me when I say that these are two very separate entities living in one body with one overshadowing the other. At some point, the person is forgotten. We don’t pay attention to the person. Almost never do we pay attention to the individual that also is the artist. Which is why when an artist or a celebrity gets in trouble or says something off or even dies there is this big uproar and big to do about the event surrounding them.
In the case of the former two happenings (getting in trouble or saying something off), at least that is when you deal with the individual that is there. You see it all the time on social media. The firestorm on Twitter and the dragging on Facebook go to ginormous proportions. It gets really crazy. Just look at what’s happening with Usher Raymond and R. Kelly lately. Look at how people react to their stories. Just in case you don’t know, it’s alleged that Usher has herpes and R. Kelly is running a sex cult somewhere. The moment those stories broke, there was so much drama that you couldn’t think properly.
But what people saw were the individuals at work. Usher, like many people who have unprotected sex, caught a venereal disease from sleeping around without protection. There are MIILIONS of people who sleep around without protection. AND get herpes. But he still got bashed. Why? Because how dare the person get in the way or at least try to get in the way of the celebrity. Celebrities don’t get diseases. They just don’t. And so they came at him because the status is more than the person even though the person is the one acting out. Nobody is taking the time to say “Hey. Maybe Usher has his own issues that he is battling with and Grammys and Chart Toppers aside, he just needs to be around supportive and helpful people right now more than anything. Someone needs to talk to him.” Because isn’t that what we would afford a normal person or a friend that comes to us and says “I got herpes.”?
Same goes for R. Kelly. He allegedly has a sex cult of some sort which is the inner person, the person that he has to live with everyday screaming something without making the sound. But he got flambeed and skewered because celebrities aren’t depraved, sex hungry, fifty-year-olds. This fits the description of an ordinary Joe. In fact, the description is what makes some of these men infamous. But R. Kelly’s not allowed to be that way because he’s a celebrity. And we have many other examples of living people who just have to deal with things that come from their individual selves – Shia LaBoeuf, Kevin Hart, Charlie Sheen.
But when celebrities pass on, in whatever way that they do, it’s a different dealing. Then is where the person gets ignored completely. In that moment of repose, they are the celebrity – nothing more and they get put on their pedestal for the world to see and remember that they were there. I want to focus on suicide a bit more when I make this next statement – Death comes for the individual. It does not come from the persona. In fact, the persona never dies. Why? Because it is something created and not born. No one is born a celebrity even if you are born to celebrity parents. You are born a person and then society creates this image of you that becomes its own living and breathing entity. That never dies because the persons who create it are the air that it breathes and the energy that it feeds off of.
Whether a celebrity is good or bad, that persona lives forever. Look at Michael Jackson. Look at Prince. Look at Andre the Giant and Chris Benoit. Look at Boy George. All of their personas live but their death claimed the individuals. All of them had personal issues be it alcohol, mental issues or sexual abuse allegations. But no one remembers that part of them because it’s so small and insignificant to the person that society has created. But that doesn’t change the fact that death claims the person and not the character and I think that that is what we need to be more aware of when we scrutinize these people and their lives.
They have to bear a lot of things alone and no status can make that go away. Clearly, we’ve seen that. When it’s time, it’s time and that, my friends, is where we all become equal. This is also why I do not get hung up on celebrities too much. I have no qualms acknowledging when someone has done a good job in a movie or made a great song but I don’t get hung up on what society has helped to create. Because that is not who they are. At least not really. The illusion just does not do it for me.
It’s a balancing act that I do not envy at all and every time I hear stories like Chester’s, I can’t help but feel pity for the man who probably recognized that his image was too heavy to carry and the weight of it finally crushed what was left of his will to live when none of us had bothered to help him lift it.