We grieve together when celebrities die because our social identities and social bonds are intertwined with them, says Eric W. Rothenbuhler, a professor of communication who teaches courses at Texas A&M University on popular music and the anthropology and sociology of communication and media. He says our ideas about who we are and how we are connected with each other are symbolic and must be communicated to become real. “Symbols” is how he describes famous people. “When they die it is an occasion to remember their accomplishments (and misdeeds) and also to communicate with and about what they represented, what they symbolized in our social process,” he says. “Watching media reports, gathering in public places, commemorating the recently deceased celebrity, making little memorials are all communicative ways to make our ideas, beliefs, feelings and values more real by making them more socially shared.”
Also, Joshua Heuman can discuss the relationship between media and popular culture. Heuman, a visiting assistant professor at Texas A&M, explores the cultural life of media industries and media policy, with an emphasis on contemporary television.