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Exploiting Paul Walker’s Death: When Fans and the Media Cross the Line

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I’ve been fortunate enough to live my 33 years of life without having to deal with a tragic death of a close family member. While I have been to funerals in the past and have mourned the loss of life, it never hit me as hard as I know it will the day someone in my immediate bloodline passes away. But that doesn’t mean of course that I haven’t been personally affected by death during my lifetime.

Being a lifelong pop culture junkie and celebrity journalist, it took me days and sometimes weeks to get over the shock and sadness of when Diana died in that Parisian car crash in 1997, when Aaliyah passed away in a plane crash in the Bahamas in 2001, or when Michael Jackson’s death shocked the world in 2009. I was 17 when Princess Di died, yet I remember waking up at four in the morning so I could watch her televised funeral from London, which was perhaps one of the saddest broadcasts I have ever seen.

It was also incredibly heart-wrenching to watch Michael Jackson’s daughter Paris publicly speak for the very first time at her father’s memorial service in 2009, saying that Michael “was the best father you could ever imagine.”

Sure, we’ve never met these stars, we don’t know them or their family members personally, but to see someone in so much pain over the loss of a loved one can really cause you some serious heartache. It’s human nature, after all.

And just like Princess Diana, Aaliyah, and Michael Jackson (and so many other public figures who had their lives cut short way too early), I too was in complete shock when I read that Fast and Furious star Paul Walker died tragically in a car crash along with his business partner Roger Rodas in Santa Clarita, CA last weekend. At first I didn’t want to believe the reports, with all of those hoax rumors floating around the Internet, but when his death was confirmed by his publicist, it hit me like a rock. It just seemed too unfair that a man and father so young, so handsome, so caring, and giving had to leave this bizarre world under the worst circumstances imagined. Paul Walker was one of the good ones, as he wasn’t interested in his celebrity, was never involved in gossip fodder, and didn’t bring cameras around to document his charity work that he did with his Reach Out Worldwide Foundation.

Paul was an angel walking among us, yet we never even knew it.

It hasn’t even been one week since he passed, and already it seems like his death is being exploited by the media and even by his fans. Gossip blogs are posting paparazzi pics and videos of his close ones, which include his girlfriend Jasmine Pilchard-Gosnell and his co-star Tyrese mourning near his Santa Barbara, CA home and at the scene of the crash. According to reports, Paul died from traumatic and thermal injuries, which may mean that he was still conscious while his Porsche erupted in flames. I’m sure these horrific details of his autopsy have made the pain even more unbearable for his family. And now, a Los Angeles coffee shop is taking it a step even further by exploiting Paul’s death with insensitive tip jars. These jars had Coffee Bean customers leave tips for their favorite Paul Walker movie — Varsity Blues or Fast and Furious.

Fans pay tribute to actor Paul Walker at crash site in Valencia

While many are paying their respects with tributes dedicated to the author on Twitter and Facebook and so forth, is social media making this more of a spectacle than it should be? Whatever happened to that “moment of silence” we were taught to respectfully observe during our school years? Have we been taking things a little too far in our need to know every detail, see every photo, and gawk at each and every person who pays their respect to someone they knew and loved with our cell phones in their faces? No, we don’t and we shouldn’t.

Yes, Paul Walker was a celebrity and a public figure, but he was also a son, a brother, and a father. I want to remember Paul as the blue-eyed, easy-on-the-eyes actor that he was, with a heart made out of pure gold and hands that were always reaching out to help. And rather than further exploiting his death, let’s just shut off our cell phone cameras and leave his legacy at that.

Rest in Peace, Paul.

Paul Walker and Max attend the World Premiere of "Eight Below"

Photo via Twitter/PacificCoastNews.com

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