It can be really tough to figure out how to cope with a celebrity death, but I'm here to tell you right now that if you don't have an immediate response, there's no need to feel pressure to come up with one — that's how the internet winds up littered with things like the RIP George Michael From Arrested Development meme, which is insensitive and needs to stop. When the news of George Michael's tragic passing was released on Dec. 25, fans were shocked and dismayed, and flocked to social media to share their thoughts on this latest painful death in a year that was already brimming with loss. But in the midst of all these tributes to a beloved artist who will be dearly missed are some joking posts "mourning" a character from Arrested Development who had the same name as the late singer, and they aren't in the best of taste.
George Michael Bluth is a character played by Michael Cera on Arrested Development, and while I'm sure that these memes aren't being made maliciously, and are maybe even intended as a form of honoring the late singer, it's important to remember that this isn't about you and that slapping "RIP" on an image of a fictional character's face is maybe not the best use of your time in the wake of a real-life death. And listen — I love Arrested Development as much as the next Mr. Manager, so I understand the allure; I didn't have a deep connection to George Michael, and these two people have the same name and it's a comedic show! I get it. In today's social media rich world, there's a huge temptation to "have a take" on the death of a celebrity, and oftentimes, in the absence of nostalgia or sentiment or a sense of true loss about a celebrity gone too soon, humor can come flooding in and feel like an adequate replacement. And just as a reminder — it isn't. Or at least, not in this form.
Humor is a wonderful tool, and one that's helped me through more than a few obstacles in my life. But the fact that these two people share a name isn't a well-crafted joke... it's just a coincidence. It's just two things that sound the same, but have nothing to do with each other. Comedy is a gift and an art and even in its most inappropriate forms, it can slice through sadness and bring in some light in a really delightful way, but I feel strongly that this isn't comedy. This is just lazy meme-creation from some people who couldn't think of anything else to share about George Michael's death, and wanted to take advantage of a cultural moment to grab some likes on a post.
I saw that George Michael died & I was very concerned they killed off Michael cera in arrested development. Rip other George Michael though.— M (@asapferg24) December 26, 2016
RIP George Michael, he was sick in Arrested Development pic.twitter.com/gp2udEj1fP— Jon Harris (@JRharris77) December 26, 2016
RIP George Michael. I loved you in arrested development.— Josh Rosen (@JoshRosen1) December 25, 2016
Y'all are RIP'ing George Michael & for a hot minute I thought I missed an episode of Arrested Development when I binge watched it last week— mere-y christmas (@merestromb) December 26, 2016
rip george michael season 5 of arrested development won't be the same without you— trevor davis (@TrevvDavv) December 26, 2016
And hey, we've all been there. I have no doubt that there are many people who appreciate the 'RIP George Michael' memes using the image of Cera's character, based on how many of them I've seen out there. And there isn't anything inherently wrong with however you choose to work through your grief. (Assuming it is in fact grief, which I don't totally buy.) But the important thing to remember is that, at the end of the day, the person who died was not a fictional character on your favorite show, he was a real person. He was a 53-year old survivor of drug and alcohol addiction whose very existence and career was an affront to homophobia and bigotry, who left a successful group in the form of Wham! to take a chance on a solo career and find his voice, and inspired millions in the process. Oh, and he also made some really kickass music, some of which you probably enjoyed as recently as Christmas Day 2016, the date of his incredibly untimely death.
So yeah, as always, do whatever you want, I'm not your mom. But bear in mind that while this musician meant a lot to a lot of people, no one is insisting that you be one of them. Unless you are a literal celebrity or actually knew George Michael, nobody's waiting to hear from you. If you don't feel anything at his death, the most respectful thing you can do is either say nothing at all, or if you simply must make a joke out of it, at least go for something more well-crafted than "these two people have the same name can you imagine." Care or don't care to your heart's content, but this weird middle ground of detached commentary is not a good look.