Though there were some proto-forms, celebrity as we know it began with the careful cultivation of image by the cinema studio system during the 1930s. From there, the idea of celebrity spread to music and a new technology, television. The increase in the amount of media produced led to a proportional increase in the number of celebrities; the new medium of the internet led to a vast surge in known celebrities. In short, the number of celebrities has been increasing rapidly for almost a century now. The rate of increase shows no signs of slowing.
What all this is leading to, eventually, by sheer weight of numbers, is a state where every day some celebrity will die. Whatever the current media are, they will broadcast some version of “Today’s Dead Celebrities,” and the general populace will drop in for their daily dose of melancholy nostalgia. There will be dedicated, constant forums for eulogy. Celebrity death will be expected and anticipated.
I’ve been making this prediction for almost two decades now, and I have to say I think we’re on the verge of seeing it realized. After David Bowie and Alan Rickman passed on, there were a lot of people looking for “the third,” and sure enough Glenn Frey went. But celebrity deaths don’t come in threes, they come in an ever-constant and increasing drip. So I urge some web site (perhaps the Onion AV Club) to jump the gun and start this feature immediately. There is no surer form of clickbait. Today’s Dead Celebrities beckon from beyond the Great Wall.