This weekend, Glee star Cory Monteith was found dead in a Canadian hotel room, in one of those too-young, too soon tragedies that has happened to many a celebrity before him. It is, of course, a great loss, as any life cut so abruptly short is. And death, no matter who it befalls, is a grave and serious thing, and that’s why I am routinely confused by when solemn responses to such events – with the outpourings of “my prayers are with your family” and “rest in peace” — are made via social media outlets, specifically by celebrities.
My problem with the Celebrity Twitter Outreach Program (CTOP) is that often it reeks of disingenuous opportunism. A sort of “Me Too” high schoolers craze of not wanting to be left out of the Drama.
The response has been almost knee-jerk and formulaic. Do you have a photo of the two of you together? Evidence that you were pals? A conversation remembered that happened within the last year that you could mention? The closer you were to Cory Monteith, the more credible you become in the morbid celebrity sphere, assuring that you’ll be mentioned in headlines like “Cory Monteith’s Last Photo – Twitter Pic Reveals ‘Glee’ Actor’s Final Moments” or “Heartbroken Celebrities and ‘Glee’ Co-Stars React To Cory Monteith’s Death on Twitter.”
My question is this: If you were so close to Cory or his friends or his family, shouldn’t you be making a phone call? Couldn’t those Tweets to your million-plus followers be instead directed as text messages to the grieving parties? (Even then, isn’t a text message the lowest form of flippant communication and therefore inappropriate for times such as these?) Call me old fashioned, but it seems grotesque to air remorse to countless strangers, containing your supposed overwhelming sadness to 140 characters or less.
What happened to well thought-out press statements from a small group of relevant parties? To earnest, unseen, unrewarded communication between two people? To acts that are not in the slightest bit self-serving? In times like these, Twitter feels like an especially thin medium, feeble and tactless, the equivalent of a department store running a newspaper ad in the 1970s with the headline “R.I.P. COREY MONTEITH. We Never Met You, But We Think You’re Swell. Don’t Forget to Come Check Out Our Air Conditioning Units.”
But leave it to people like Paris Hilton to keep it real, with no mention of Cory Monteith’s passing jammed in between her wardrobe updates and meal announcements this Sunday, leaving one to assume that the two did not know each other. Instead, as one would with any complete stranger, she ignored the event entirely. And there’s something oddly respectful in that.