Why It Feels Weird to Become a Fan of a Dead Celebrity

I heard about Jill Clayburgh‘s death in 2010 and even remembered reading that she had wrapped a few projects before succumbing to leukemia. Bridesmaids was the first time I ever saw Clayburgh on screen, and it was like seeing a ghost. The worst part was, she was so memorable as Annie’s (Kristen Wiig) mom, who is an AA sponsor without ever having been an alcoholic, and who paints watercolor portraits of country stars in her spare time. Even if I rent her movies or pull up the TV show Dirty Sexy Money on Netflix, it’ll feel different than if I had come to it on my own.

I’m old enough to remember when late celebrities like Brittany Murphy and Heath Ledger dressed up for awards shows and gave passionate interviews about their latest projects. But what about kids who were too little to remember the unfortunate deaths of these stars? There’s a chance that they might experience a shadow of my discomfort, that chilling reminder that whomever they’re watching on the screen is not alive. Or maybe they don’t care, and are simply grateful for the chance to see The Dark Knight or Clueless and get just a little shred of the performer.

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