A Second Look at our Idols

When a celebrity dies, fans publicly mourn their death, often through social media platforms or via monuments and memorials. It’s normal to grieve and honor someone who many people looked up to or who has made an impact in their field. Yet all too often, the old saying “don’t speak ill of the dead’’ becomes a reality, as fans of the deceased refuse to acknowledge any  wrongdoing that the celebrity committed during their lives. 

Olivia Poolos

When Kobe Bryant and his daughter, not to mention seven others, died in a helicopter crash, it was a sudden tragedy, shocking NBA fans across the world. However, after the dust settled, news and social media coverage exploded with ideas to honor him, including a petition to change the NBA logo to one with his face. However, most of the hundreds of posts and articles ignored the flagrant sexual assault case against the basketball player in 2003. In the case, a 19-year old young woman came forward, bruised and bloody, with a disturbing story about non-consentual sex. 

CBS reporter Gayle King brought up the case to WNBA player Lisa Leslie in an televised interview after Kobe had died. Though King brought up the topic gently, she was quickly attacked by fans, including the rapper Snoop Dogg, who posted an Instagram video addressed to King saying, “Back off b**** before we come get you.” 

I challenge Gen Z to be more open to all perspectives- even if those perspectives challenge the reputation of an idol. Empathy and a willingness to listen is especially important in a post-#MeToo world. I want to lower our collective tolerance to violence against women and unpunished crimes. This isn’t to say you can’t be sad about a figurehead passing away or dying young, or that you have to ignore their accomplishments. Instead, I encourage fans to empathize with those who have been hurt by the celebrity. Let’s start conversations about sexual assault, and think twice about posting reverently about a controversial celebrity on social media. People must be held responsible for all their actions, famed or not, in life, and after death.