Thomas Couture, Romans in the Decadence of the Empire (1847)

Whenever a well-known person passes a few likely characters rush to the social media forefront: There’ll be longtime admirers offering condolences; heartfelt paeans that reduce to: “I didn’t know the deceased personally, but their work provided a welcomed respite from the mundane, beat-to-predictable-ass-beat of existence and/or is inextricably linked to some profound moments in my life. For that I am eternally thankful.” Responding to them will be the ‘contrarians’ sharing stories about the well-known person’s living indiscretions, or sarcastically asking: “Where were all these tears when [BLANK] died or [BLANK] happened?,” or referring to the condolence-offerers as ‘sheep’ and/or ‘stupid’ for grieving for someone they didn’t ‘really’ know. (They may also cumbersomely shoehorn their agendas into these rebukes.) And lastly, there’ll be a contingent of coldly detached folks offering annoyingly professorial, above-it-all, highly presumptuous opinions about everyone involved.

The rub: The fact that the well-known person is the beacon that brings all these diverse peoples together is a profound testament to the luminary’s broad cultural appeal. Each one of these people—no matter the positive or negative ‘natures’ of their expressions—are ‘equally’ mystified participants in an orgy of public ‘reaction’ to a ‘singular’ event.

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