Time-travel dramedy SPEED OF LIFE makes its Texas Premiere with Other Worlds Orbiter on Wednesday, August 28th (7:30pm) at Galaxy Highland Theatre. Tickets available now!
Reactions to the deaths of celebrities are strange when you stop to think about them. These are people we didn’t know. We watched them in their chosen profession, admired them and found value in their work, but we weren’t intimately connected. But when one does pass on, we usually celebrate their work and engage in nostalgia for our experiences with them. So what do you do when someone passes on in a horrific way that doesn’t call for celebration?
I was watching the opening of Monday Night Raw on June 25th, 2007 when the image of Chris Benoit filled the screen along with the graphic: “In Memory. 1967-2007.” Being a fan of professional wrestling requires you to unfortunately be pretty accepting of the idea of death. But that is generally reserved for the older stars, long past their heyday. Here was a 40-year-old man, a husband and father, just a couple years removed from a promotional run as the company’s top star. And not only was he dead, but his wife and 7-year-old son were gone as well. How could this have possibly happened?
The answer was that it happened in the worst way imaginable. Over the course of a weekend, Benoit strangled his wife and son before hanging himself from a weight machine in their home. The specifics of the events will forever frustratingly be shrouded in mystery; the exact sequence of events that lead to Benoit taking these actions will never be known. The media naturally made it the top story for a couple of weeks, with the common cause being thrown about as “roid rage.”
Some fans, vainly trying to find some solace in the situation, agreed with this and even entertained a larger conspiracy theory that the family was murdered by an onscreen rival of Benoit’s from a decade earlier and staged to look like Benoit was the culprit. Of course, this is all ridiculous. Benoit, for whatever reason, commited these inescusable acts and then committed a final act of cowardice to avoid all responsiblity or consequences for them.
So where does this leave you as a fan? The same way it should as a non-fan. As mentioned, this was the news story for a couple of weeks, and it horrified everyone who came across it. From an outsider/non-fan perspective, it was a tragedy that couldn’t be explained or justified. For someone who had seen Benoit perform in person, who had watched him weekly for years, it cut so much deeper and left a much more haunting feeling. How do you begin to explain it? Is it possible to still be a fan, to find some kind of compromise or justification? Can you separate the art from the artist? (This is a question that has really required some deeper examination in light of the #MeToo movement of the past few years.)
I can only offer my personal take: I can’t celebrate or praise anything he has done. No matter how talented he was at his profession (and he was one of the greatest ever), anything he had done was invalidated by the actions of his final hours. He was a murderer, above all else.
It’s often said you shouldn’t meet your heroes or idols. Perhaps you shouldn’t watch them either, because you never know how it may end.