Back in January of this year, journalist Camilla Long tweeted that fans bemoaning the death of David Bowie “man up.” She added, “it’s so deeply insincere watching all of this. I think grief should be private,” referring to the public displays of grief that flooded social media for the days after the 69 year old musician’s passing. Fans of the Thin White Duke took Long to task for her tweets—which while certainly a crass attempt at bringing attention to herself—but were nonetheless honest. Long was called “insincere” and was told “In sorrow people cling to cliché, but that doesn’t make their feelings any less genuine. Give them a break.” One fan tweeted at the journalist that she should “probably avoid social media at times like these then, when people find relief and togetherness by mourning together.”
Its true; people mourn alone, together, with wine and song, but everyone is allowed to mourn differently…except Steve Martin that is.
On Tuesday, the 71-year-old comedian tweeted a tribute to his late friend, stating, “When I was a young man, Carrie Fisher was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. She turned out to be witty and bright as well.” Various Twitter users as well as Claire Landsbaum of NEW YORK MAGAZINE labeled a simple tribute to a friend that Martin has since deleted after the tweet sexist. Nobody cares what my opinion on the nature of the tweet is, I know that. I’m a 36-year-old white male, I can’t pretend to understand feminism as well as a woman who has experienced living in the patriarchy. What I see as a tweet about visual first impressions enveloping into a deeper understanding of character and skill others may view as Martin objectifying a talented actress and writer, putting her on display like a Kenner action figure. I can’t comment on that (although I do think this is a case where the old adage “know who your friends are: comes into play).What I can comment is the lack of empathy displayed by the people who attacked Steve Martin who was simply trying to mourn his friend.
Let’s step back from the situation. Let’s pretend that Steve Martin never became a world famous comedian an author and was just an office drone that played banjo with his band at the local dives on weekends and dressed up as the Easter bunny at the mall every spring. Perhaps in this alternate timeline, Carrie Fisher never went into the family business and was working as a professor and editor of the literary magazine at the community college. Some how, by some cosmic force, the two met and became friends. However, even in this alternate galaxy, far, far away, Carrie Fisher still passed away on December 28th, 2016 and Steve Martin tweeted those exact words to his 600 Twitter followers. Nobody would care, and their friends and family would say that it was a loving tribute. If anyone did call the un-famous Steve Martin out, they’d be called crass, or some sort of monster for not displaying empathy. What these people who are taking Martin to task for eulogizing Fisher in a way they deem unacceptable are forgetting that, while they are celebrities, he is simply a person who lost a friend. When you were tweeting (assuming he runs his own Twitter) at Steve Martin that he was sexist or a jagoff, you were communicating with a friend who was mourning…mourning differently than you.
Condolences need not be crafted by a committee, and nobody says the right thing all the time. I’m not here to defend what Steve Martin’s tweet stated, I’m here to defend what it meant to be, a good-bye to a friend. The outrage over the tweet should be replaced with some empathy for Fisher’s family—who are not only grieving the loss of Carrie Fisher, but now her mother Debbie Reynolds—and for her friends who are also coming to terms with her sudden death, including Steve Martin who Fisher interviewed for the LA TIMES in 1999. It’s been a long year of mourning (and it’s going to be a long three days) but we as fans that buy the records and go to the show are only one part of a celebrity’s life. They’re also mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, and drinking buddies who are not perfect because nobody is. These are real people, suffering from actual grief, and they don’t need to be inundated with people trying to garner a few more Twitter followers and advertise just how woke they are by using outrage as an agenda. I understand that you’ve seen STAR WARS, but I assure you that Steve Martin was closer to Carrie Fisher than you ever were. He’s coping with the loss of a friend.