The loss of icons in 2016 was important. It reminded us that you can do just about anything, and it’s still not enough to escape death. You can be the best singer, actor or writer but really we are all just playing for time. Even our icons can’t avoid it. These figures who maintained their fame for years are now gone.
So, we must ask ourselves; where will we find our icons now? In a world where fame is most often created in reality TV and lost over controversial tweets, perhaps modern celebrities lack longevity. Will we mourn them like we did Bowie, Prince or Fisher?
Icons are on another level of stardom, not merely famous but figures. Figures of hope and individuality. They stand for something greater than themselves.It is this level of fame which establishes icons, people who became household names, answers in celebrity quizzes and feel like the death of a family member when you read their name in the obituaries.
For me, Carrie Fisher’s death hit the hardest. It wasn’t her role as Princess Leia, it wasn’t about her acting at all, it was her ability to remain truthful to herself in a world that tried to tell her how she should be. She was frank with her opinions and honest, almost to a fault.
Her views on mental health and support for those struggling with addiction helped develop the way we talk about these issues. A conversation which even in death she continued, modelling her urn to look like a Prozac pill: the act of an icon. In 2016 we lost too many to list and now, have we run out?
In a social media driven society, it is easy to be retweeted to a famous status, but it’s difficult to maintain. It is unlikely that the reality TV stars that clutter your Facebook feed will be remembered 50 years from now. But there is a reason for this: not all celebrities are the same. We have those on the A list and Z list and they are ranked for a reason.
Everyone may entertain, but not all will survive the test of time. The glamour of modern stardom feels fleeting, but this is because we are looking in the wrong places. It’s unlikely you’ll find an icon on late night trashy television.
It may be easier to view past figures through a rose-tinted lens and the present celebrity culture critically. But in 2017 we have plenty of budding icons to choose from. Look no further than the recent Golden Globes where Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling proved as actors they can do anything, even popularise a modern classic musical. This is something that the industry would have laughed at years ago, but they have made a staggering success.
Stone dedicated her award to all struggling creatives as an act of support. Gosling humbly acknowledged his position standing on the shoulders of many in the production of the movie. These are acts of humility and hope. The acts of icons.
Our icons can be found in any industry whether it be music, film or art. But you have to open your eyes to see them and not just swear blind that they don’t exist because you’re grieving the ones that we lost. It won’t bring them back.