Policing the Grief for the Death of Notre Dame

Today will probably go down as one of the most culturally tragic days in history, at least until the next movie star’s death. Fire engulfed the spire of Notre Dame (literally “Our Lady”), and made it topple to the ground. The cause seems to be an electrical fire caused by the ongoing renovations, which will no doubt call into the validity of current preservation methods, along with likely a slew of questions of how to preserve the landmark, whether to build it up in false grandeur, or to memorialize the place it once was.

But that’s not what this class is about, is it? As the tragedy was unfolding, people took to social media to share their grief and their love for the church now lost to an unfortunate conflagration. While many just shared stories and memories of times they had been fortunate enough to visit the landmark, others decided to share pictures of themselves there. Many of these pictures showed the person smiling, maybe with their arms spread wide or even possibly a funny pose. Quickly after they posted these pictures, another group of social media users followed. The Grief Police.

Some of this group criticized those who had posted the pictures directly, questioning what their true motives were with posting whatever photo they did. Others took a more mocking tone, as depicted in the picture below.

I will admit, I don’t believe that memorializing Notre Dame by posting a picture of yourself on your study abroad trip is maybe the best method out there. But this does bring up a good question, when the thing you’re memorializing is an iconic landmark, are pictures of yourself at the landmark an acceptable remembrance? As far as I know, I haven’t seen people have such disdain for when someone posts a picture of themselves with a celebrity, but it seems to be popping up with this landmark.

An update to this Sighting post, I found another tweet mocking the perceived premise of many of these memorial photos:

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  • This makes me think of the idea of “celebration of life” ceremonies as non-traditional funerals, where mourners are encouraged to remember the fun they had with the deceased instead of becoming overwhelmed by the magnitude of their loss. I can only speak for myself and in general I’m not sure how I feel about the celebration-of-life trend, but I’d much rather see pictures of people enjoying themselves at the cathedral, where it looks beautiful and sunny, instead of focusing on how gutted it appears now. People smiling by the cathedral shows its cultural importance and the impact it has on the people who visit–the burned husk is miserable, horrific.

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