Luke Perry died, and an entire generation is in mourning. Why does this death feel so different?
It’s rare that my entire Facebook feed is posting about the same thing, no matter what’s going on. Some of my Facebook friends are into politics and post about nothing else, while some never go near it. Everybody posts about food at some point, but not at the same time. Many post about The Bachelor. Game of Thrones threads will be starting up soon. But I’ve never logged onto Facebook and seen pretty much my entire feed of (mostly) middle-aged women talking about the same thing. Until today, as word spread that Luke Perry had died.
I had just started college when Beverly Hills, 90210 debuted. It was huge. Everybody watched. Back then there still weren’t that many choices on TV. Cable had been popular for a decade, but I didn’t have it at college. Network TV was still the way to go. And judging by the stories of having 90210 watch parties and hanging Luke Perry and Jason Priestley posters in bedrooms, our entire generation was hooked.
2016 was the year that seemed to rob us of so many of our icons. Carrie Fisher, Florence Henderson, Alan Thicke, Prince, George Michael, David Bowie — that year seemed to be cursed (for other reasons, too). And it’s not like they were the first of our icons to go. Michael Jackson died in 2009. Whitney Houston died in 2012. Robin Williams died in 2014. And while each of those people shaped Gen X in some way, they weren’t actually Gen Xers. They were older than us, and they entertained us as we grew up.
Other iconic Gen Xers have died, of course, but they died young, and most not from natural causes. Some claim that Generation X died with Kurt Cobain, but we were too young to connect his mortality to our own. Same with River Phoenix.
This one feels different, though. Is it because so many of us had crushes on Luke Perry? Is it because he didn’t seem to be a hard-partying star who helped bring about his own death? Or is it simply because he’s our age, and we know we’re not getting any younger?
When I was twenty and got a headache, it was just a headache. Now every bad headache is a possible stroke. Every leg pain is a possible clot. I’m not that old, but neither was Luke Perry. I think that for everyone who absent-mindedly hums the 90210 theme whenever the city of Beverly Hills is mentioned, mortality got a little closer today.
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