With Recent Celebrity Deaths, We Try to Make Sense of the Loss
By Donna Porter, Yahoo! Contributor Network
Many Americans seem to hold the belief that celebrities die in threes, a topic that has resurfaced with the passings of Tim Russert and George Carlin–with bloggers speculating on who the third celebrity will be. Some believers of the superstition that “bad things happen in threes” note that the “celebrities die in threes” hex has been fulfilled, by listing lesser known celebrity figures. Is this morbid? Maybe not, as the meaning of three spans beyond celebrity deaths in defining our life and world.
There’s an old saying that celebrity deaths always come in threes (old, that is, if you’re the kind of person who frequently reads or writes about celebrity mortality).
Sometimes it just seems to ring true. Back in June 2009, there was the funereal trio of Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon. When actress Brittany Murphy passed away in December of last year, followed swiftly by socialite Casey Johnson, the very morbid among us were trying to place a third. Some tabloids argued that though it happened several months later, Corey Haim’s death by overdose fulfilled that triumvirate.
Going back another year — to January 2008 — Brad Renfro, Heath Ledger and Suzanne Pleshette all died within a week of each other.
This week, people are again talking about the "rule of three" in relation to the deaths of Dennis Hopper, Gary Coleman and and Rue McClanahan.
Michael Jackson's untimely death coupled with the deaths of Ed McMahon and Farrah Fawcett in the same week revived the belief of many that celebrity deaths, plane crashes and all manner of catastrophes come in threes. The persistence of this belief is difficult to explain since the case for it is so easily demolished.
As author, administrator and . . . I forget the third, of The Book of Threes at threes.com, I recently did three, that’s right . . ., three interviews on celebrity deaths in threes. Mostly people are interested in why deaths occur in threes.
After these interviews I came to the conclusion that putting deaths into a threeness is the way we master our own mortality. We reflect on these deaths and create a memory by clustering concepts into threes. It gives us a chance to complete our relationship with our celebrities and move on.