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The day that Gen X started dying

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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.

Photo Credit: copyright s_bukley /

Lela Johnson

Wednesday 6th of March 2019

I had just turned 17 when 90210 came out on tv. I wasn't able to watch it because we lived in a rural area and cable was not provided, and since we had a farm the money was needed to run the farm-not by a satellite dish. But I knew who he was, saw him in magazines and yes maybe even had a crush on him. I mostly remember him from a movie that we watched called 8 Seconds and when I heard he passed away, I felt like I had lost a friend from high school that I had lost touch with, I literally cried. Your post pretty much explains exactly how I felt, that it really makes you think about your own mortality but also that of my parents-who are now in their sixties. It really shows you life is precious, and short.


Wednesday 6th of March 2019

You described how I have felt, since I heard that he died perfectly. I said the exact thing to a friend- this is the first celebrity, of our generation, to die. His death is like a stmbol we will always remember. Also, you repeated exactly whay I said. He wasn’t a partier, who caused his own death, he was by all accounts a kind, loving, family man. My heart broke yesterday. For Luke, his family, friends, and lastly, for our generation. Rest In Peace Luke Perry, you are gone too soon. You are already missed, and always will be. #LukePerry #gonetoosoon #heartbreak #thanksforthememories

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