Every now and then the media announces the death of a celebrity, someone from the public eye that we know from television. It happened recently. Matthew Perry, star of Friends, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and The West Wing as well as many other shows, passed away at 54 years old. Now we don’t know these celebrities, we only perceive that we do. We have never met them apart from through the TV screen, but we feel as if we know them intimately. Matthew Perry was one of those people.
Friends ran from 1994-2004. On average the episodes were around 23 minutes long. If you were flicking channels and came across a Friends episode, wherever you dropped in during those 23 minutes, you could keep watching. It was fun, comical and best of all it was relatable. You had Phoebe, the weird one. Monica, the neurotic one. Rachel, the one who was learning to be independent. There was Ross, Monica’s geeky older brother and there was Joey, the Italian/American actor on a soap. But then there was Chandler.
Chandler was the relatable one. He was the one that used humour as a defence mechanism, come on, we all do that at times. He was unlucky in love; we’ve all been there. He was that was Ross’s best friend in college, remember those episodes? He was sarcastic, something he has done since being a child and his parents divorced. Haven’t we all been sarcastic at one time or another? See what I mean? He was the relatable one. That’s why it feels like you really have lost a friend.
But is it really realistic to feel that way about someone you have never met? I remember back at the end of 2016 when the news alerted the world to another celebrity death. This one was the first female heroine I remember from the big screen. She was in the very first movie I ever saw at the cinema.
I am talking of course about Princess Leia herself, Miss Carrie Fisher. I was 6 years old and at a friend’s birthday party at Barkingside Odeon. We were watching Star Wars. Six-year-old me realised that girls can be feisty and bossy. Girls can be heroes. Girls can be more than just someone for the boys to love. Girls can be strong and amazing. Carrie Fisher gave me that at the age of 6 without me ever meeting her.
Is it strange for tv characters to affect us? The answer to that is no. We see ourselves in them. I was a female Chandler until I found my soulmate. I’m my own version of Princess Leia, feisty and not afraid to stand up for what I believe in. Even though we know these celebrities are simply portraying a person on film or other media, we see ourselves in the person they portray. That’s not a bad thing.