Why are so many celebrities dying in 2016?

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Q. Kumber
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Why are so many celebrities dying in 2016?

Postby Q. Kumber » April 23rd, 2016, 4:49 am

Listening to BBC Radio 4's programme The Last Word, this Sunday past, they had a piece on why so many celebrities/stars are dying. On doing some research, the obituaries department, using the criteria that the news of a death had to be headlined over three media, Radio, TV, and Online, in 2012 there were five featured between January and March. In the first three months of this year there were 24.

We magicians have also noted something similar in our community, the latest being Roy Johnson.

The UK Independent newspaper has followed up on the report in today's edition. I don't agree with the contention that it is simply because there are more famous people today than in the past. All those covered have made a tremendous contribution to the discipline that was their career, not simply famous for being famous.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/scien ... 96976.html

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Re: Why are so many celebrities dying in 2016?

Postby lybrary » April 23rd, 2016, 10:26 am

The criteria to use media mentions as the threshold is misleading, because you are not really measuring the death of famous folks but their mention in news media. So you are conflating changes in media with the actual question. Not having thought about this a whole lot, my guess is that what you we are looking at is pure and simple noise, statistical variations, outliers, and changes in media.
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Leo Garet
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Re: Why are so many celebrities dying in 2016?

Postby Leo Garet » April 23rd, 2016, 12:36 pm

Probably another media conspiracy.
;)

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Re: Why are so many celebrities dying in 2016?

Postby Anthony Vinson » April 23rd, 2016, 3:48 pm

Randomness is clumpy.

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Re: Why are so many celebrities dying in 2016?

Postby Richard Kaufman » April 23rd, 2016, 4:24 pm

Exactly.
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Re: Why are so many celebrities dying in 2016?

Postby Joe Mckay » April 23rd, 2016, 6:37 pm

2016 is just the beginning.

I have been waiting for this for a while now. There are so many celebs now entering the decade of their life where they start of drop off that it will soon be a tsunami of celebrity death.

Of course you have anomalies like Prince who died young. But in terms of celebs in their late 60's/70's - there are just so many of them that I fully expect a very famous person to die every 3-4 days now.

Also - the media is so dumbed down now that they can get a lot of cheap coverage out of covering celebrity deaths. Since very little journalism is required and it is a story that can be covered from lots of media friendly angles.

As such - the media is going to be dominated by celebrity deaths for the next few years.

In fact - pretty much forever. There are just so many famous people in this media age. And there has been going back the past 30-40 years.

I miss the days when only JFK or Elvis's death would be front page news. Celebrity deaths used to be kept for the obituary pages. It was almost fun. You genuinely had no idea who had just died until you turned to that page.

But not any more. With the media running out of money and running out of proper journalism - celebrity deaths will start to take up the a significant amount of media coverage.

One of the knock on effects is that elements of the public will start to feel depressed and a little freaked out by all this death. It will start to be quite unnerving to see so many icons start to drop off.

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Re: Why are so many celebrities dying in 2016?

Postby lybrary » April 23rd, 2016, 8:05 pm

Having thought about this more I think Joe is correct that this will get worse over time, because who makes celebrities? Media. As the media landscape broadens (particularly Internet), as more and more people consume media, we will also have a lot more celebrities and thus more deaths. Perhaps the increase in deaths over the recent years can be attributed to TV which received widespread adoption in the 1950s and 60s. Many of the celebrities that early TV created are now at the age where one has to expect them to die.
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Re: Why are so many celebrities dying in 2016?

Postby Richard Kaufman » April 23rd, 2016, 8:45 pm

That's a load of crap.
This particular point in time is no different than any other.
Clusters of deaths run in cycles ... that's all.
Use some common sense.
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Re: Why are so many celebrities dying in 2016?

Postby Max Maven » April 23rd, 2016, 9:12 pm

If there really was a trend or pattern based on "generational" celebrities, then 2015 would have also been filled with such deaths. But it wasn't.

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Re: Why are so many celebrities dying in 2016?

Postby lybrary » April 23rd, 2016, 10:24 pm

I am not talking about a year to year comparison but broader, decades or generations. While there are of course big statistical variations to be expected there could be other factors at play, too, which cause the average to move.
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Re: Why are so many celebrities dying in 2016?

Postby Bill Mullins » April 24th, 2016, 1:08 am

It's not obvious to me that 2016 has been a "worse" year than 2012 so far. Wikipedia has lists of deaths of notable people, and I recognized dozens of names from Jan - Apr 2012, including:

Etta James 1/20
Joe Paterno 1/22
James Farentino 1/24
Don Cornelius 2/1
Ben Gazzara 2/3
Whitney Houston 2/11
Davy Jones 2/29
Ralph McQuarrie 3/3
Robert Sherman 3/5
Earl Scruggs 3/28
Mike Wallace 4/7
Dick Clark 4/18
Levon Helm 4/19
Charles Colson 4/21
Amarillo Slim 4/29

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Re: Why are so many celebrities dying in 2016?

Postby Bill Mullins » April 24th, 2016, 1:29 am

And from the magic world:
Francis Martineau 1/8
Tony Giorgio 2/1
Ken Krenzel 2/8
Martin Breese 2/23

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Re: Why are so many celebrities dying in 2016?

Postby Joe Mckay » April 24th, 2016, 6:54 am

Bill? Here in the UK - only Whitney Houston is famous off that list. Also - when David Bowie died earlier this year - that was the moment when British people started to realise that genuine superstars were now coming up to the end of their natural life.

The thing is this. There are 52 weeks in a year. And there is a 20 year window where most people die (70-90).

And it is not hard to come up with a thousand people (probably a lot more). When you think of all the famous people associated with TV, films, music, writing, comedy, sport and politics. Over the past 40 years.

And due to statistical variation - you will get some clumps where you have two week periods where superstars are dropping off every other day.

This trend has to start at some point. And it seems to be 2016. Why wasn't it 2015? I don't know. If it was 2015 - somebody might ask why didn't it start in 2014? And so on...

And in terms of media coverage - it takes about a week to process a lot of these deaths. First there are the rumours, then the official announcement, then people on Facebook posting their shocked reaction, quickly followed by Facebook tributes, then the media tributes from famous people all over the world (often including the president) and then the funeral where a number of celebrities gather to give their send off. Added to which - you will sometimes have extra media coverage for issues such as arguments over the will or gossip about how big the estate was. Along with gossip about the circumstances of the death. For instance - finding out a celebrity was secretly fighting cancer the past 6 months. Or details from those close to them of their last few days.

Indeed - death is something that most people don't like to think about. As such - it is only when celebrities die that a lot of people think about it at all. Which is why I think there will be a knock on psychological effect to large swathes of society.

This wouldn't be such a problem if the media still had standards like it did in the past. But these days - they are looking for cheap content to fill the 24/7 media cycle. Which is why we will never fully escape the cloud of celebrity death from now on.

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Re: Why are so many celebrities dying in 2016?

Postby Tom Gilbert » April 24th, 2016, 7:54 am

The bar for being called a "celebrity" in the last decade is extremely low.

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Re: Why are so many celebrities dying in 2016?

Postby lybrary » April 24th, 2016, 8:59 am

Tom Gilbert wrote:The bar for being called a "celebrity" in the last decade is extremely low.

Exactly my point. So many cable TV shows, YouTube channels and other Internet outlets, new sports disciplines, etc. all with their celebrities. If anything happens to them it is going to be in the news.
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Re: Why are so many celebrities dying in 2016?

Postby Bill Mullins » April 24th, 2016, 10:07 am

Joe Mckay wrote:Bill? Here in the UK - only Whitney Houston is famous off that list. Also - when David Bowie died earlier this year - that was the moment when British people started to realise that genuine superstars were now coming up to the end of their natural life.


So maybe this trend you are perceiving is a British thing. For me (an American), someone I recognize as either a major or minor celebrity dies every few days, and it's been that way for years. Often mentioned on this side of the Atlantic is that people die in clusters of 3. In June 2009, over three days, Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson all reached room temperature. (Wikipedia refers to that summer as "the summer of death", because of all of the celebrities that died that summer).

I think that whatever this trend is that you see, is explained by the clumpiness of random events, and that some of the people who have died lately were important to you (more than folks who died in 2013 or any other year), and that several of this year's deaths were British (Bowie, Rickman, Paul Daniels, Victoria Wood). Your average American wouldn't recognize Wood or Daniels or Ronnie Corbett or Sylvia Anderson as even being a celebrity.

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Re: Why are so many celebrities dying in 2016?

Postby Joe Mckay » April 24th, 2016, 1:03 pm

You are correct, Bill. There is no reason to assume Britain and the US would feel this trend at the same time.

I think 2016 is the beginning of this trend for British people. The wave of celebrity death is starting to crash on to the shoreline. With a mix of international stars and British icons.

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Re: Why are so many celebrities dying in 2016?

Postby Jonathan Townsend » April 24th, 2016, 7:58 pm

Joe,the increased number of celebrities minted per year over the last century, the longevity of people and the baby boomer demographics - rather than any group in particular having an increased mortality rate. Though something about "The year of the" ... kind of appeals as theme for fiction.
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Re: Why are so many celebrities dying in 2016?

Postby Leo Garet » April 25th, 2016, 11:22 am

Of course it's seriously bad news that so many celebrities are dying, of course it is.

But if we pause for a moment and consider the age group 65/75, there are a hell of a lot of Baby Boomers who aren't famous that are saying their last Long Goodbye round about now. My own immediate circle of pals and contemporaries is thinning at a rate of knots. How did that happen? Oh yes, we're the old timers now. Those of us who "didn't die before I get old" have started to fade away.

We just don't warrant the publicity, although it seems to me there's a thesis just waiting to be written on the not-entirely-unexpected rate that the Boomers are vanishing.

Back to the special people, fair enough, there does seem to be few more than "usual" celebs and suchlike at the moment, but that's life. And, er, the other thing.

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Re: Why are so many celebrities dying in 2016?

Postby Richard Stokes » April 25th, 2016, 6:25 pm

"That's a load of crap.
This particular point in time is no different than any other.
Clusters of deaths run in cycles ... that's all.
Use some common sense."


The BBC Radio 4 Program, More or Less, which investigates dodgy stats,is more sympathetic to the Joe Mckay/Chris Wasshuber line of argument. It's not simply a statistical cluster. The trend is definitely upwards.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03r5d29

The BBC journalist ,Tim Harford, happens to be one of my favourite radio journalists.
He introduced me to the ideas of Cambridge statistician David Spiegelhalter who wrote The Norm Chronicles: Stories and numbers about danger. I especially liked their exploration of the concept of 'micromort'. This is where you have a risk of one in a million of dying.
UK stats: each day you have a micromort chance of dying a violent or accidental death.
Being placed under general anaesthetic is as dangerous as sky diving - 10 micromorts.
But let's not get too depressed: a crew member of an RAF bomber on missions over Germany in WW2 faced a micromort every second of their flight!


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