OK, I’ll admit it: this paper is aimed at millenials. Whether I’m writing an article, or coming up with suggestions for other writers in the Comment Section, my chief concern is whether the topic is relevant to students. This rule has one exception: obituaries. For some reason, our generation is expected to mourn the passing of cultural icons from a different age, or whose work has long since faded out of our interest. (I’m sorry, Aretha Franklin.)
That said, is it just me, or has the Grim Reaper been going after cultural icons particularly important to us this year? Stan Lee’s tragic passing last week is the latest in a line of losses in 2018 that, seemingly for the first time, really hurt. It’s probable that almost every student on campus has been affected by Stan Lee’s creations. Born in 1922, he presided over a creative empire that demanded its heroes be relatable, diverse, and interesting. He changed the media of comic books and film forever and managed to complete his cultural crusade by seemingly cheating death entirely. Not only did he make appearances in 20 existing Marvel films, it turns out we’ll see him in Avengers 4 too. If anything, Lee’s impact was only accentuated through Marvel Studios, and the birth of the Avengers franchise. Black Panther and Infinity War both took record figures at the box office. But, it was Lee’s work ethic that was inspiring enough for me: “I want to do more movies, I want to do more television, more DVDs, more multisodes, I want to do more lecturing, I want to do more of everything I’m doing,” he said, in a 2010 documentary. It seemed that the only productivity issue he faced was time, and if that isn’t a relatable student issue, I don’t know what is.
2018 may not be done yet, but it hasn’t been a great one for clebrities loved by millenials. If you grew up in the UK during the 2000s, either Avicii, Verne Troyer, or Barry Chuckle probably impacted you in some way. I’ll be honest: losing Bowie or Prince didn’t seem like a huge deal for me: I only really discovered their music following the media storm around their passing, and it felt disingenuous having to mourn people I probably wouldn’t recognise out of this context. Summoning up sorrow for others feels fake. Of course, I have respect for those people, but I find it hard to relate to them when the world we eached lived in is so drastically different.
Obviously, I’ve been thinking a lot about dead celebrities lately, and I do sometimes wonder whether people we consider pivotal in modern culture today will end up as a mere virtue-signal to-morrow. Will we miss Ru Paul? Is Graham Norton going to go out with a bang? Is Obama’s political legacy going to last beyond his lifetime? I’d like my children to know who all these people were, but I wouldn’t be concerned if they didn’t look sufficiently teary-eyed.
It’s hard to acknowledge, through a media discourse that re-mains dominated by papers edited by 50-year-olds, that sometimes, the demise of 20th century icons doesn’t have the same impact on everyone. I’ll truly miss Stan Lee, and it’s been weighing on my mind for the last week. His loss mattered, if anything more so for our generation than for others. His disappearance will leave a tangible hole in the culture we consume. The world of high-budget special effects and fast-talking eccentric prodigies is less vibrant for his passing.
We can only hope they find the secret of immortality before all that hanging around with wild animals catches up with Sir David Attenborough.