Saturday, September 01, 2007

Dead Icons: The Rules of the Game

I'm rather enjoying all the hoopla over the 10th anniversary of Diana's death. I most especially enjoy the opinionators who claim they don't understand what all the fuss is about and that it's time to move on, etc.

You're fighting an uphill battle, friends, because, trust me - whether you think she deserves it or not, whether you loved her or hated her - every five years, there'll be another remembrance flurry for the late Princess. There is not a damn thing you can do about it.

Here's how it works: there are icons and then there are Icons. Small-i icons are those who made a big name for themselves, lived a full life, then died of natural causes or of some run-of-the-mill disease after the peak of their success. Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart. Queen Victoria. Gandhi. We don't spend any energy commemorating the dates of their deaths. They're still in the icon-stratosphere, but they don't get the 10th (or 50th) anniversary treatment.

No. We leave that for the capital-I Icon. In order to qualify for Icon status, a famous person must:
  • die while their star is still shining bright.
  • die before the age of 50.
  • die in an unexpected way. The gorier, the better. Assassination's good. So are car wrecks and suicide.
  • have conspiracy-theory overtones and debates about whether the person was "good" or "bad," "saint" or "sinner."
  • have a huge fan-base.
Hmm. Who can possibly fit those criteria? Let me see. James Dean. John F. Kennedy. Marilyn Monroe. Elvis. And, oh! I know! Diana Princess of Wales! Well, duh.

These are the folks whose death-dates we remember through books, documentaries, retrospectives, and increased opinion-page inches. They are mentioned in any number of places every year on the day they died, but the big guns come out every five years. And they always will, - at least, until nobody can remember who they were.

Why, August alone is a big Icon month: August 5 - Marilyn Monroe, August 16 - Elvis, August 31 - Diana. (Note to current celebrities: try not to die in August. The month is already over-scheduled for death anniversary remembrances. Try, oh, I don't know - um, February.) We've been through the mill this year over Marilyn (45th), Elvis (30th), and Diana (10th).

Next year will be the 45th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. (45 years! Yikes!) You think there won't be countless documentaries about his life, his extra-marital affairs, the single-bullet theory, and Lee Harvey Oswald? You're kidding yourself.

So, to all you "get-over-Diana-and-move-on" people, it ain't gonna happen. Not in your lifetime. She'll be fodder for commemorations on the 15th, 20th, 35th, and 50th anniversaries of her death. She'll be beloved, and she'll be hated. Just like JFK. Just like Marilyn. Just like Elvis.

And now, off for a cuppa tea in my Diana-and-Charles-Royal-Wedding mug.


Chris said...

Oh, noooooooooooo..........

MaryB said...

Yup. 'Fraid so, girlfriend. I suggest a media blackout for you on these anniversaries.

Liz said...

That's very true, mary. Harry did speak well though at the service.

MaryB said...

I think Harry's tribute was lovely. But then, I'm an American and we love our iconic Diana, if only for her bringing a wee bit of Jackie Kennedy-type style to the royal family. (We're suckers for icons over here.)