What do you do when both the Goblin King and Metatron die in the same week? If you’re me, you pout and cry. Then write. Writing has always been a way to soothe my soul; a way to cope with grief and assuage pain- to connect with other human beings while remaining safely anonymous. So here I am, typing and wiping my nose after sloppy crying. In short, it’s been a poopy week.
A purge of sorts was what I intended for this to be, but as is usual it seems to have evolved into something more. Because as I pondered over my own self pity my thoughts kept wandering back to an offhand comment a young friend of mine had made shortly after the news of Major Tom piercing beyond the atmospheric limits. She said something to the effect of, “why is everyone making such a big deal about David Bowie dying? People die every day and no one notices or cares.” This particular person is of the age where it’s important-and appropriate-for her to challenge and question the status quo, and in that way I was proud of her. Because frankly, she’s right. One life shouldn’t be seen as any more or less important than another. But at the same time, I was also so truly, very sad for her. Had she never had the opportunity to connect with someone else through their art so deeply that they tore through your being and turned your perspective upside down and threw it in the trash?
I wanted to pump my fists at the sky and scream furiously at her…”OF COURSE we care more about the David Bowies and Alan Rickmans and Robin Williamses…We are nothing if not egocentric beings. When an artist of any form has the ability to rearrange your molecules they become pieces of our own selves. When they pass, that piece of us dies with them. We mourn for those pieces.”
I’ve always preached to my children the virtues of learning pop culture references, that they are just as valid areas of study as any other historical genre. I’ll be honest, Shakespeare isn’t exactly my thing. I can appreciate it. I understand why it’s important, but if you give me a choice between reading Shakespearean literature and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Guide is going to win every time.
Shakespeare was crass and a little crude, sarcastic and relevant in his time. He was the pop culture of his era. This is the main reason I can find value in his work. To study pop culture references and how they’ve evolved over time throughout each generation is the truest form of sociology. You learn more about people this way than any other…after all, archaeology is merely digging through people’s trash, right? It only sounds legit because it’s really, really old trash. Pop culture is kind of like being able to dig through living trash, you get up close and personal super quick. And I readily admit and recognize, that I am a product of the molding and shaping of pop culture of my day. Labyrinth and Dogma were more than just movies to my teenage self (and by default….still are). They successfully rearranged my molecules. The reached inside, turned me around, and threw some pieces in the trash. And I so mourn for those pieces that David Bowie and Alan Rickman took with them this week.
It has been a poopy week. I mourn for the world’s loss. I mourn for myself. But in a weird way, I think I mourn mostly for our future. My young friend pointed it out so eloquently; we need heroes. We need people who will be a little crass and crude, sarcastic and relevant. People who we will collectively mourn when they die because we are intimately all tied into the mashed up mess they burned inside of us. My young friend has not experienced this yet. And I pray so hard that it’s not too late.
So here is my proposition to you. Please, do not let them take childhood away from our children. Grip tight with bloody fingernails and gnashed teeth. Fight for their recesses, their finger-paint, their make believe. Hold value in their questionings, their independence, their yearning for expression. Let go of your “back in my days,” and burn down the standardized tests, standardized thinking, and standardized responses. We need to let them Free their Ziggy Stardusts, their Professor Snapes, and their Goblin Kings. If we lose that cord, the one made out of chewing gum wrappers and dandelion strings, we lose our wonder. I want my children to live in a world where there are alien rockstars and wizard professors. And I want them to one day mourn alongside the rest of the world when their heroes die, aching for the piece of them that suddenly blew into Stardust.