British entrepreneur and star of Channel 4's Four Rooms Alex Proud published an article in the Telegraph recently suggesting 'public grieving over dead celebrities' had reached 'insufferable levels'. Responding to the recent untimely passing of Prince, he suggested that an appropriate response to the death of a celebrity might be 'mild sadness' rather than 'utter devastation'.
I agree that the death of a celebrity can lead to cringe-worthy online one-upmanship. And, like Proud, I would question the emotional response of certain people reacting to one of the many recent high-profile deaths via their Twitter or Facebook feed.
And yet, to imply that there's something wrong with mourning an artist who you feel you fully understood through their work is rubbish. To many, Prince was so much more than 'someone whose songs you liked aged 13'. He was an icon, someone people felt close to through his music. He expressed relatable feelings which captured the hearts of his fans - they felt like they knew and understood him, and equally felt like he knew and understood them.
It's extremely unfair to suggest that 'if you get cut over celeb deaths, what happens when real people die? Like your mum and dad?' The loss of a close family member is of course incomparable to the loss of a musician. Not even Prince's most hard-core fan would deny that. But this does not mean the feelings someone portrays online are not genuine.
Approaching someone's heartfelt tribute to the death of a celebrity with such cold cynicism is dangerous. How do you that their work didn't help the person in question through a difficult time in their life? Perhaps seeing them live was a life-changing moment that shaped the person they are today. These experiences are more than capable of triggering a serious emotional response.
Is it fair to question the grief of Thomas Hannan, The Line of Best Fit's senior editor who wrote that 'I'm cut up about losing Prince' as he details everything that made him such a special artist? He'd never met Prince and neither had many detailing their own emotional response to his death online. And yet, their relationship with Prince was such that they're deeply saddened by the news of his passing.
Proud might see Prince as 'an ageing pop star who hadn't produced anything good in decades'. But other see him as their inspiration, their hero - the reason they are the person they are today. Surely, at the time of his death, this should be respected.