Column by Aaron Peck, Chief Videographer
The world came together in mourning last Thursday when the legendary musician Prince died.
For me, it’s deaths like Prince’s that really put into perspective the strong parasocial relationships we, as ordinary people, form with celebrities.
A parasocial relationship is when a member of one party has a strong emotional connection with another, while the second party has no idea of the existence of the first.
In the days following Prince’s death, you couldn’t check your social media without seeing people who have never met the singer expressing the utter pain they felt, knowing they would never get to experience his physical presence again.
People expressed their admiration in different forms, from sharing their favorite Prince moments, their favorite Prince song or pin-pointing a personal memory based on one of his songs.
Music has such a strong power over people, and just hearing an opening guitar riff or a chorus of a song can instantly snap you back to a moment of time in your life.
I can’t claim to be the biggest Prince fan because I honestly only know maybe five of his songs off the top of my head.
However, I do remember thinking it was super baller that it was raining during his Super Bowl halftime show – it made for one epic performance of “Purple Rain.”
While I’m not the biggest Prince fan, I can respect the mourning his fans are going through because I went through a similar grieving process when comedic legend Robin Williams tragically took his own life just a year and a half ago.
Robin Williams gave me thousands of laughs throughout my life, and watching his movies has allowed the laughs to continue even after his death. He was so inspiring to me because I could watch him in every performance and see that he genuinely cared about his audience. He could bring me pure joy while also hitting me in the feels.
I have probably cried 20 times from watching the movie “Flubber.” I know what you’re thinking – yes, I watched “Flubber” more than 20 times growing up. That scene when the evil henchmen broke into Robin Williams’ house and broke his flying robot got me every time.
In all seriousness, these one-sided relationships we share with musicians, actors and athletes are mostly good-natured and harmless. But they can also lead to extreme passion in a negative way. For example, this is what drives Trump fanatics to physically and verbally attack protesters at his rallies. They feel such a strong attachment to his views and politics that they might harm another person in his name and honor.
Parasocial relationships can extend beyond just celebrity infatuation, though.
For example, after the horrific attacks in Paris in November, the world came together in mourning. Suddenly, everyone was adding a red, white and blue French flag filter to their Facebook profile pictures. “My thoughts and prayers are with those families of the victims” was a common status update or tweet.
The world is a rough place, and that’s never going to change. But when we come together in the midst of adversity in an event as big as the attacks on Paris or the death of a widely-loved celebrity, it’s refreshing.
It’s important for us to come together in support and show love, respect and admiration for those we love, even if we didn’t have a direct relationship with them.