2016 was a gut-wrenching year in a lot of ways. From the terror attacks to the police shootings to Brexit to the Trump presidency, the majority of us are very happy to leave it all behind. In between, we lost a lot of beloved celebrities from our pop culture landscape as well, from David Bowie to Alan Rickman to Harper Lee to Prince to Muhammad Ali. This was followed by Christina Grimmie, Gene Wilder, Leonard Cohen, Fidel Castro and Carrie Fisher, to name but a few. Indeed, it was impossible to list all of them here. Was it a coincidence that Carrie Fisher’s mother, Debbie Reynolds, perished a day later than her daughter? Like us, you may have finally googled “why did so many celebrities die in 2016”? Is something strange happening? Is this just completely random? Are all of these celebrity deaths simply a reflection of our own immortality? In the words of Bowie himself, “The truth is, of course, that there is no journey. We are arriving and departing all at the same time.” With that, here are 15 explanations for all of the departed celebrities of 2016 to satisfy your curiosity.
15. Was 2016 Just A Bad Year?
In a lot of ways, 2016 seemed like a ruthless year. Like we said, we had the terror attacks, Brexit, police shootings, Zika, Syria, Donald Trump becoming president, the loss of so many greats and that’s not even the half of it. It is thought that Time magazine should make the Grim Reaper their ‘Person of the Year’ instead of Donald Trump. Perhaps rightfully so, all of the media outlets are hailing it as the worst year ever. It’s the talk of the town; you’ve probably even seen all of the memes by now (Dear 2016, Y U no end soon?).
What can explain all of these celebrity deaths? One popular theory is just that 2016 was a bad year. Do you think this theory has any merit? In some ways, it is certainly a positive outlook because it implies that 2017 could possibly get better – there is a shred of hope. Do you think things will get better in 2017 or is this theory no more than wishful thinking?
14. It’s Just The Circle of Life
Some people out there believe that all of the celebrity deaths of 2016 are just part of the greater circle of life. Regardless of the cause of death, whether it was due to natural causes or illness, people are always going to die, and that includes celebrities. People who subscribe to this theory are perhaps the realists of the bunch; they know that death is inevitable. However, as you will see, these people are also ignoring greater trends that actually might give us more insight into why so many celebrities seemed to die in 2016, which we will get into a little later on. What do you think? Are you a realist and believe that these deaths come down to the simple circle of life or do you believe there is something else happening here?
13. We Are Getting Older, We Are Obsessed With Our Own Immortality
Similar to the “circle of life” theory is the fact that all of us are simply getting older. This means a lot of things. First of all, as we get older, we become much more interested in, and also know a lot more people than we once did. Everyone in Hollywood is getting older, too. When these people pass away, we feel our own immortality much more acutely, an idea suggested by The Guardian. It has also been suggested that if you are one of those people who post on social media about a celebrity’s death, you really are speaking to your own ideas about your finite time on earth. Either way, perhaps all of the celebrity deaths in 2016 are just a symptom of our age.
12. More Sinister Theories Emerge
Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory, so here are some possible ideas. Note that we aren’t necessarily saying that these have merit, only that the following speculations are out there. Did the Illuminati, the rumoured secret society that wants a New World Order, kill Prince and David Bowie? These two celebrities would certainly not be the first because the Illuminati is also rumoured to have killed many other prolific people over the years because they did not comply, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Michael Jackson, to name a few. There have been links between many of the celebrity deaths of 2016 and the Illuminati as much as two months ago. Are celebrities simply cursed? Are these crackpot theories or do you think there is something more to them?
11. Is It Just A Coincidence?
One of the simplest ideas to emerge in all of the theories on the 2016 celebrity death enigma is that they are all simply a coincidence – they are completely random. This would mean that there are no greater trends out there that could have explained why so many celebrities died in 2016. It may not be the most interesting or exciting theory out there, but it certainly seems like a sound theory on the surface. As Time magazine points out, sometimes events occur in clusters or they don’t happen at all – that’s simply due to the nature of statistics. Then again, if you continue reading this article, you will see that there are some theories out that there that question this idea of “coincidence” or random chance. We won’t spoil it for you – you are just going to have to keep reading.
10. The Internet Optical Illusion
One theory out there suggests that thanks to the Internet, we are simply more aware of all of the celebrity deaths than ever before. Indeed, the Internet has obviously made it possible for us to be flooded with copious amounts of information, which naturally includes news of celebrity deaths. We also become aware of celebrity deaths more quickly than in previous decades due to the nature of the technology today. Ultimately, there are many factors at play here. First of all, there are a lot more news outlets and “content farms” out there – now we even have fake news to add to this list. Second, the topic of death always gets our attention and this is especially true when it comes to celebrities, who seem, in some ways, to be infallible. News outlets are going to capitalize on the winning combination of a household name and death in order to generate a lot of clicks and ad revenue. In short, is it possible that we are simply more aware of all of the celebrities passing away, giving us the illusion that more people are dying than in previous years?
9. The Internet Part 2: Social Media and “Sharing”
One theory that has emerged as an explanation for all of the celebrity deaths in 2016 is related to the above theory about the optical illusion of the Internet. It comes down to the power of social media and, ultimately, how quickly news travels around the World Wide Web thanks to the concept of sharing. Sharing is caring, right? We love to participate in the most culturally relevant topics of the moment, whether by Tweeting RIP [enter celebrity name] or by sharing an article on all of the departed celebrity’s lasting impacts.
As humans, we hate to feel left out. We want to be part of something. If the excellent 2016 dark comedy Search Party has taught us anything (and we suggest that you watch it if you haven’t already), it is that, often times, we share without even really thinking or feeling much at all. News sites make it so easy to simply click and share these days. This is one possible reason why it feels like so many celebrities have passed away this year.
8. The Internet Part 3: Social Media Turns Celebrity Deaths Into Emotional Events
Another theory related to social media comes from The Guardian. They suggest that the reason for the seemingly unparalleled number of celebrity deaths in 206 is due to the fact that social media has the power to amplify emotions once a beloved celebrity passes away. They write, “Sudden emotional impulses are amplified with astonishing speed across the internet just as they can be in a crowd. Each apparently solitary smartphone user is really sharing other people’s emotion as well as their own.” In this way, the other side of the social media is that the fact that it makes it possible for celebrity deaths to become an emotional event. By sharing inspirational quotes, some of us react to these events very viscerally. This then creates a strong impression in our mind and we often get the impression that a lot of celebrities have passed away because of this strong emotional reaction.
7. Something To Do With All the High Profile Celebrities?
One theory, courtesy of Time magazine, is that perhaps we are just taking notice of all of the celebrities who passed away this year because so many of them were prolific. Because of this, we tend to remember them more, making it seem as though so many celebrities passed away. Indeed, you will probably recognize every single one of the following celebrities; beginning in January 2016, David Bowie passed away, which was then followed by Alan Rickman, Harper Lee, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Christina Grimmie, Gene Wilder, Leonard Cohen, Fidel Castro and Carrie Fisher, to name but a few. Carrie Fisher’s mother, Debbie Reynolds, who starred in 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain, passed away the very next day in high unusual circumstances. According to her son, Carrie’s death was too much for her and her final words were about how she wanted to be about with her daughter. Do you think the high-profile nature of many of these celebrities had anything to do with all of the celebrity passings this year?
6. Statistically Speaking, Yes, There Were More Celebrity Deaths In 2016
Some of the theories above simply speculated that factors like social media or being mega-famous made it appear as though there were more celebrity deaths in 2016 than there actually were. If we take a look at the actual data though, there were more recorded celebrity deaths in 2016. According to the BBC, for example, there was a sharp rise in the number of celebrity deaths in the early part of the year in particular (while the second of the half was relatively normal). When they looked at the entire year, the BBC had 30 percent more obituaries in 2016 compared to last year. In short, yes, there actually were more celebrity deaths this year, at least according to the BBC, although the consensus is that the number was not abnormal. This would make the above social media theory a little less credible given that all of the celebrity deaths weren’t simply an illusion – there actually more deaths this year.
5. There Are Lot More Celebrities Today Than Ever Before
Another theory as to why so there were so many celebrity deaths this year is simply due to the fact that we have more celebrities today than in any other time in history. Ask your grandmother how many celebrities she can name and chances are she could come up with a mere handful. Indeed, in the distant past, the only stars were royalty and those in film. With the advent of television in the 50s, we then added television stars to the expanding list of famous people. The concept of “celebrity” officially exploded in the 60s with all of the musicians and athletes who went on to become household names. Think about all of the different types of celebrities that exist today thanks to social media. We have all of the reality stars, the YouTube stars and the Insta Babes – we’re looking at you, Jen Selter. With such a large number of celebrities than ever before, naturally, some of them are going to pass away.
4. The Celebrities Of The 60s Are Approaching Their Later Years
Within the large group of celebrities that exist today are all of the celebrities who are approaching their later years – particularly those who rose to fame in the 60s. As we mentioned, it was in the 60s that celebrity culture really took off. It was the year where talent, whether it was musically or athletically, could make you famous. You no longer had to be royalty. This decade spawned the Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Muhammad Ali, to name only a few. Today, these celebrities are now in their later years and are at an increased risk of developing serious health problems like heart disease and cancer, which are some of the leading causes of death. Naturally, you can expect that there would be an increase in the number of celebrity deaths, which is exactly what seems to be happening. This definitely applies to David Bowie, who died of liver cancer at age 69, as well as Muhammad Ali, who died of Parkinson’s syndrome at the age of 74.
3. The Rock and Roll Celebrity Lifestyle
Another theory that could explain all of the celebrity deaths in 2016 could have something do with their hedonistic lifestyle – the drugs, the alcohol, the sleepless nights, the recklessness. On average, celebrities statistically tend to have shorter lifespans than your Average Joe. This was found in a 2013 study published in QJM: An International Journal of Medicine, which found that athletes, actors and creative people all tended to die earlier, at ages 77.4, 77.1 and 78.5 years, respectively. While this isn’t exactly young, it is younger than people in other fields. The study speculated that the reason for the correlation between fame and early death could have something to do with the tendency to engage in high-risk behaviors, such as smoking and drinking. The rock and roll lifestyle, for example, could easily explain the early deaths of both David Bowie and Prince. Bowie, for example, famously lived on nothing more than cocaine, milk and red peppers for a period in his life. This would also suggest that we might see a lot more rock and rollers bite the dust in the next few years.
2. It’s Likely Combination of Factors
If we have made one thing clear, it is the fact that the reason why so many celebrities passed away this year is likely due to a combination of factors – it wouldn’t be accurate to simply narrow this phenomenon down to one single cause.
Ultimately, it makes sense that since there are so many celebrities these days, naturally, some of them are going to inevitably pass away. Secondly, there is a large sub-population of older celebrities, which also means that we can expect a large number of them to pass away as well, whether due to natural causes or the fact that they are at an increased risk of dying due to their age. In our eyes, we see three of the above theories responsible for all of the celebrity deaths in 2016. Do you agree or disagree? Do you have an entirely different theory that we didn’t think of? Let us know.
1. There Are Lot More Celebrity Deaths To Come
The Internet is ripe with how 2016 was the worst year ever. In fact, it is officially a meme. The truth, however, is that it is not going to get any better – at least not in terms of celebrity deaths. Sadly, the rise in celebrity deaths in 2016 is only expected to continue in the future. The fact that many celebrities are approaching their later years (putting them at a higher risk for developing disease or simply passing away due to natural causes), the fact that celebrities tend to live shorter lives and the fact that there are a lot more celebrities today than in any other time, means that we can expect the same things to hold true in 2017. Ultimately, a lot of beloved people will continue biting the dust in the new year – it is a reality that we have to accept. This was not a unique phenomena – it is the new norm.