This is in response to the current trend going round of saying 2016 was a terrible year, particularly with regards to celebrity deaths. There are a few images floating around with captions like this:


My theory is that while 2016 may have been a bad year, it isn't an outlier and in fact I think that we'll see the number increasing nearly every year for the foreseeable future[1]. I'll explain why.

Celebrities as we know them today - people famous for their contribution to the arts - only really started to exist in large numbers when the age of TV and cinema began. Prior to that, the only real media going around was books, but once we entered the peaceful times after WW2, TV and film became a major pastime for Americans and the wider developed world. All of a sudden there were film stars and TV stars to rabidly follow, and they were being broadcast all around the world to a far wider audience than ever before.

If that was the beginning of 'celebrity' then the years since have only increased the numbers of stars. The proliferation of different channels on TV and the eventual internet have made it easier than ever for not only a wider audience to be reached than ever before but also for celebrities to be scrutinised and followed entirely separately to their appearances in movies.

This is why I think celebrity deaths will get worse - because the number of celebrities has been going up exponentially, and therefore the number of deaths will too, lagged by 40 or so years.

I couldn't find any data supporting the idea that 'the number of celebrities started increasing dramatically when TV became a thing' so if anyone has any, supporting or debunking, let me know. I'm mostly assuming this from an appeal to common sense.

So no, there is no conspiracy, and 2016 wasn't terrible - or at least probably not more terrible than 2017 will be, or the year after that.

  1. If we manage to cure aging and disease and prevent death altogether, I'm counting that as unforeseeable. ↩︎