Was 2016 really unusually deadly for celebrities?

The Wall Street Journal asks if 2016 was really unusually bad for celebrites
(Image credit: WSJ/YouTube)

"It's easy to think 2016 was unusually deadly for celebrities," says The Wall Street Journal's Tanya Rivero, and she isn't kidding. David Bowie, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Carrie Fisher and her mom, Debbie Reynolds, George Michael — you can probably name a dozen more. "But was 2016 really the particularly cruel year it appeared to be?" she asked, and to answer, she brought on MarketWatch editor Quentin Fottrell, who recently wrote an article on the subject. Objectively, he said, there were maybe some more celebrity deaths than usual, but not by much — and part of the problem is that there are just more celebrities and types of celebrities, plus more ways to mourn them.

The BBC said it published more obituaries in 2016 than in 2015, but when CNN looked at celebrities with stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Grammy awards, or Sports Illustrated covers, they counted 34 A-list deaths, a big jump from the previous year but a decline from 36 in 2006. If you don't remember 2006 as a particularly brutal year for stars, remember, "Facebook had just a few million users back in 2006, the last time there were this many so-called A-list celebrity deaths in one year," Fottrell said. "Now it's nearly 2 billion." Focusing on the deaths of celebrities isn't frivolous, especially in a year when a reality TV star won the presidency, he added. "Celebrities reflect, in many ways, our values."

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Peter Weber, The Week US

Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.