When I attended this year’s Sundance Film Festival, I skipped a movie called God’s Pocket predominantly because I needed sleep, but also because it starred Philip Seymour Hoffman. Later that day while waiting in line for another film, a fellow film critic asked if I had seen the aforementioned movie, to which I replied “Pfft, no! I don’t like Phillip Seymour Hoffman.” Several days later, the news came out saying he had died. Well, damn, didn’t I feel like a prick? It seems more high-profile, beloved celebrities have died this year than before – or maybe the Internet’s never-ending news cycle is just meaning we get more and more coverage of it – so here are some handy hints to not be a dick when talking about it with fans who are legitimately overwhelmed or upset.

Try Not Being a Dick
Look, this one’s pretty self-explanatory. Unless you’re in like-minded company, don’t immediately start spouting off about how you were “never a fan” or that “they were never that good anyway.” You will come off looking like a Grade-A douchebag who enjoys dancing on peoples’ graves. Just don’t do it. As you mother would tell you, if you don’t have something nice to say, shut your god-damned trap!


Stop Grand-standing Your Sadness
Or as I like to call it: grand-saddening. If you were a fan of that person then I feel bad for you, but don’t act like your grief over somebody who you didn’t personally know is any more important than somebody else’s grief. And for the love of God, don’t make it all about you with declarations of “but I was their biggest fan!” It’s far too easy in this day and age where people’s most inane thoughts can be projected out into the universe – especially if you are what’s known as an “online celebrity” who is given far too much agency to write about themselves and their inflamed ego – to make everything about you, but if you’re starting a sentence with “When I was a heroin addict…” or “when I was diagnosed with depression,” then stop, drop and shut up immediately.

Don’t Turn Your Two Cents into Two Dollars
Oh, you have opinions? Great! But keep them to yourself, you noob. You think it was selfish for somebody to accidentally overdose on heroin and leave families behind? You think it’s cowardly to commit suicide when confronted with a genuine perception of the end of the world? You think that just because somebody has fame and riches that drugs and mental diseases don’t affect them as badly? Chirping into conversations with such wise pearls of wisdom like these does nothing but make people feel worse and agitated while proving that these issues cross class and socioeconomic boundaries as well as race, gender, sexuality and nationality.

Forget About Spreading Gossip
It’s not a flattering look to be seen getting satisfaction out of gossiping about anybody’s misfortune, let alone in a situation like this. Don’t be that person that wants to spread the scoop before TMZ has even arrived on the scene. It’s called tact, and while there’s always more speculation and hysteria around a celebrity that doesn’t mean they, their family and their fans don’t deserve some sort of respect.

Leave the Jokes in Your Head
Unless it’s Joan Rivers, there aren’t too many people for whom distasteful jokes about death are appropriate. Best not to be that person who has to apologize for off-color jokes that you just couldn’t keep to yourself. If you think somebody may take it the wrong way then you’re probably right. Maybe you’ve been working on a Robin Williams impersonation, or a joke about Heath Ledger and Brokeback Mountain that’ll set the PC Police on high alert. Yeah, stop it right now. You’re better than that. And if the celebrity in question is a woman? Look, just don’t even go there. You know what I mean. Don’t be gross.

Image Credit: Ted Soqui

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