TikTok celebrity death prank “Killing” must end
Andy Cohen isn’t dead. Michael B. Jordan isn’t dead. But if you don’t pay attention to the news and someone tells you, would you believe them?
It’s the latest trend to engulf TikTok feeds, with the hashtag #celebritydeathprank at more than 200 million views on the platform. Children in particular play pranks on their parents.
But not everyone is enjoying the trend. The videos come at a price, psychologists say, and potentially traumatize those who have been pranked. Parents have a responsibility to talk to their children and set an example before jokes go too far.
“We need to get to a point where we’re bridging that gap with this empathy deficit that we’re seeing especially in our children,” says TM Robinson-Mosley, consulting psychologist.
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Andy Cohen “doesn’t feel like” watching videos of people thinking he’s dead
- Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance’s son, Slater Vance, apologized after participating in the trend himself, telling his mom and dad that their Black Panther co-star Michael B. Jordan, 35, had died. It felt particularly gruesome given the untimely death of fellow co-star Chadwick Boseman, 43, from colon cancer in 2020.
- “I hope this can be a lesson for everyone else using social media as a tool and a source of entertainment to truly understand that your actions can have consequences that transcend them,” he said in a subsequent TikTok -Video.
- Andy Cohen, 54, is also above the trend. “I don’t want to see people’s reactions to my death,” Cohen said on his show Watch What Happens Live this week, urging people to stop making, sharing, and tagging him in these videos .
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“Real Emotional Trauma”
Kids are more connected than ever on social platforms, measuring value based on likes and popularity. “This constant online search for approval is related to these attempts to post something that’s going viral,” says Mosley.
Don’t be fooled by the laughter in the background of these videos – real sensitivities remain.
“It’s easy to understand how some might dismiss this kind of children’s prank as harmless fun,” says New York psychologist Joseph Cilona. “However, for some fans, the death of a celebrity can be an emotionally significant and traumatic event. This arguably harmless prank can result in real emotional trauma.”
People can thank parasocial relationships for this, that is, developing one-sided relationships with celebrities that can compete with real connections.
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“In many cases, the time someone ‘interacts’ as a fan of a beloved celebrity can actually replace the time they spend in some of their real-life relationships,” says Cilona.
Also, “Sudden, unexpected death is traumatic, whether it’s for someone you know or someone you adore, the fact that that person is there one day and gone the next second is terrifying, that traumatic in and of itself,” says Mosley.
Benjamin Goldman, a mental health therapist, suggests that this type of prank might even lead parents to confront their own mortality: “Perhaps a prank about the death of a parent’s favorite star is cruel because it really arouses the fear of the parent.” Parents before their death, their loss, exploited youth, their loss of culture, their loss of cultural meaning.”
Not all pranks are the same
Of course, there’s plenty of room for pranks—even this one that some parents seem to enjoy more.
“We don’t want to label all forms of pranks or comedy as cruel, dark, or ill-intentioned because comedy as a connection has a lot to offer,” says Goldman.
It’s more about the intent behind said prank.
“We may see this as a way to undermine the relationship or attack the power dynamic between a caregiver and the person being cared for,” says Goldman.
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However, it doesn’t have to mean that someone lacks empathy.
“Pranks can generally be cruel if taken too far,” says Regine Galanti, a clinical psychologist. “But it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a lack of empathy or that something is wrong.”
For example: How is this different from Jimmy Kimmel’s segment about parents telling their kids they ate all their Halloween candy? As long as the pain is quick, maybe the damage could be too. “I don’t react to this prank any more than I do to other pranks,” says Galanti. “But I could understand the argument that pranks where you make a joke of someone else aren’t nice.”
Harm — and pleasure in said harm — can still come despite intention: “Sometimes it can seem like it makes you feel better if you want to put other people down or go viral for something cruel because you get an instant dopamine.” hits,” says Mosley.
How to talk to kids about the TikTok celebrity death prank
- Think about why you had such a visceral reaction. For example, did a joke about Lady Gaga’s death hit you because she means a lot to you?
- Don’t be afraid to show your feelings. If your child has hurt you, tell them.
- Think about what your child has done. Was that just a silly TikTok prank, or is your child seeking attention you otherwise wouldn’t give?
- Ask for an explanation – but don’t ask why. Mosley suggests “asking” it like this: “Tell me what you were thinking when you posted this. tell me what happened Please give me some insight into your decision to post this because I’m curious and want to know what happened.”
- Give the prankster the benefit of the doubt. “Intention is really crucial. I’m totally open to the idea that someone had a helpful and even healthy intention in pulling one of these pranks,” says Goldman. “I just have a hard time imagining what that intention might be. It’s not a one-size-fits-all answer.”
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