In case you didn’t notice, American actor Paul Walker was killed in a car crash this past weekend. As the media is wont to do when a celebrity dies, investigations and coverage is running in an overflow of excess. Any of you that use social networking are also privy to the fact that many people are critical of those members of the proletariat that post material in memoriam of Walker, because they say that humans die every day that have more needs or have done greater deeds than a Hollywood star. They further say that people should not post things about dead celebrities since greater masses of people die every day.
Those that say these things in an outrage are simply wrong.
Firstly, this needs to be put out in the open. Paul Walker’s death is not a tragedy. Although by definition, “tragic” means dreadful or disastrous, it is not tragic. The connotation that comes with a tragedy is the implication that innocence or goodness has been destroyed through harmful forces outside of the control of the innocent. The fact of the matter is, Walker was a passenger in a fast sports car, which was reportedly being driven in excess of a safe speed. Cars are and always have been death traps, especially at volatile speeds which was the case. When driving at that speed, the driver and passengers accept responsibility for all effects to follow. As a result, innocence is lost. When something happens to a person that is unfortunate, but a direct effect of their action or inaction, the result can no longer be deemed tragic. It can be unfortunate, it can be sad, but the word “tragedy” has too strong implications and should be reserved for truly tragic events.
Moving forward, let us tender the following two statements as fact. When somebody inherently “good” dies, it is a sad occurrence. Especially when they pass at what seems like an early time; a time that could have been used touching and improving the lives of others around them.
Transitively, the death of Paul Walker is sad because of the kind of person that he was. However, it is going to be sad to so many more people than the death of an average person. This is because throughout his film career, Walker managed to reach out and touch the lives of untold millions of people. When you go to see a (good) movie, through the storyline and acting you are placed in empathetic touch with the protagonist. To me, Walker was a good enough actor that through the Fast and Furious movies that I watched and own, I felt for his character in Brian O’Conner. I wanted to see Brian succeed, to witness him overcome his weaknesses and create a circumstantial outcome that was best for him and the people he loved. Again, transitively that makes me feel for Walker, through the character he portrayed. Although I do not feel for Walker as much as I would someone like Tom Hanks, whose roles I identify and empathize with more than Walker’s, during the two hours of a Fast movie, Walker is my protagonist.
Putting this into another view, imagine how you would feel if your current favorite (alive) singer/songwriter died. The lyrics they have written, and the melodies they have composed would cease to continually be created. The essence of their being, the emotion and creativity they wrote with, and the emotions and lyrics that you identified with, would be somewhat of a memory. In the duration of the songs you listen to, you are totally empathizing and placing yourself into the shoes of the singer. They have now touched your life and are a part of you. Truth is, part of you is going to be sad if they passed away.
Although Walker’s death isn’t very personal to me particularly, it is sad. However, it is personal to some people, which I can still identify with. When Sean Taylor (Washington Redskins safety) died in 2007, I will be the first person to admit that I was personally in a somber mood. Taylor was one of my favorite players on my favorite football team, and was in the midst of a career year on the rebound from having personal problems. I liked Taylor and it was upset to see him gone. He touched my life enough that I posthumously bought his jersey so that I could remember the player that he was.
There are people who have had their lives touched by Paul Walker in a significant way, like Taylor was with me. Yes, some did not personally know him, but like the death of a character in a book, they empathized and were placed in the shoes of his characters, transitively being placed in the shoes of Walker himself. And yes, the death of a good person on any scale is sad, but not every person has the opportunity to be a part of so many lives like a movie star can. If someone who could not have possibly known Walker is bemoaning his passing, be respectful and let them be. Their influences and lives are different from yours, so treat your reactions to them as such. Remember what you were told to do as a child, and fully think through what words you are going to attribute to yourself before you make a foolish statement.