Is There a Wrong Way to Commemorate the Death of a Celebrity?
Typically, when a famous person dies, the news comes delivered via Instagram timeline. You’re scrolling through your feed, and you see it: a photograph posted by a media organization, a fan or a fellow celebrity with “RIP [heartbreak emoji]” captioned. As others become aware, more tributes are made, and a flood of memories, moments, images—and selfies—are shared across social media. Such is the circle of life, I guess.
On November 12, when Stan Lee passed away at the age of 95, comic fans around the world took to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to publicly celebrate his legacy as Marvel’s mastermind. Robert Downey Jr., Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana and Hugh Jackman are just some of the dozens of actors who played roles in the universe Lee created, and just a few of the famous names who shared photographs of themselves with Lee after his death.
Armie Hammer was one of the actors who decided against sharing a shot of himself alongside the superhero creator. The Call Me By Your Name Star, who worked with Lee on the 2014 animated film Stan Lee’s Mighty 7: Beginnings, instead opted to provide commentary on other actors’ tributes. “I’m touched by all of the celebrities posting pictures of themselves with Stan Lee…,” he wrote in a since deleted tweet, “No better way to commemorate an absolute legend than putting up a picture of yourself.”
Hmm. That’s an interesting take on how people should and shouldn’t react to an impactful death. “What else u supposed to do when someone dies armie,” one Twitter user asked in reply, to which Hammer bit back, “If your answer is ‘post a selfie’ then I think we need a cultural revamp across the board.”
In response to another user’s criticism, the newly hailed Police of Grief suggested an alternative approach to the offending selfie posters:
If Stan impacted your life (ie. All of our lives) with his work, post his work that touched you the most. Posting a selfie makes his death about you and how cool you felt taking a picture with him.
— Armie Hammer (@armiehammer) November 12, 2018
Mourning and memorial—as Twitter users was very quick to point out to Hammer—are incredibly personal. For all its faults, social media is a wonderful space for people to come together, share stories and celebrate someone’s life. And while there is technically no right or wrong way to commemorate the life and legacy of someone who greatly impacted you, there are sometimes “incredibly touching” and “less-touching” ways. Let’s take a look through some examples.
The tear-jerking tribute: Jimmy Kimmel, shared a picture he drew of Stan Lee when he child, and accompanied it with a sentimental anecdote.
At age 7, I drew this weird portrait of Stan Lee and asked my Mom to send it to him. Thankfully she didn't because 30+ years later, I got to give it to the great one in person. Thanks for all the fun Stan #Excelsior pic.twitter.com/IpfYBSjWyf
— Jimmy Kimmel (@jimmykimmel) November 12, 2018
The afterthought tribute: Gwyneth Paltrow shared a picture of her fellow Marvel-actor Chris Pratt, and explained in the caption that the dress she’s wearing is available for purchase on Goop’s website. When she heard news of Stan Lee’s death, she allegedly edited the now-deleted photo’s caption: “UPDATE: I just heard about Stan Lee, he will be so missed. What a genius, and always so lovely. True gentleman.”
Such an emotional and heartfelt tribute to Stan Lee by Gwyneth Paltrow 💔 pic.twitter.com/PUJ4iMYnRp
— Mark Taylor (@markoos01) November 13, 2018
A tribute of my own: Rest in peace and power, Stan Lee. I hope that throughout your time on earth, you felt the love and admiration the world has shown for you after your death.