The internet’s new favorite trend involves telling your parents that their favorite celebrity has died, and filming their distraught reaction. The “fake celebrity death prank” went viral on TikTok and Instagram over the holidays, to mixed reactions. Creators have made videos saying Tom Cruise and Taylor Swift have died, among others. The trend is recent, but 2022 was already plagued with celebrity death hoaxes that amassed chaos throughout the year.
these celebrity death pranks are sending me to outer space lmaooo pic.twitter.com/ERlM7Ta5jy
— t a y l o r • (@zoezugg) December 25, 2022
In one video, a woman falsely told her family that Justin Bieber died of a drug overdose at age 28. The shocked person next to her said that her life was over. The morbid hashtag “celebritydeathprank” has racked up over 100 million views.
But many don’t see the appeal of the trend. People are calling creators out for subjecting their parents and friends to upsetting news for views. Few are also baffled at the parents’ intense reactions to the death of a person they don’t know personally.
Yeah. I'm not subscribing to this one.
— Myke Thompson (@itsmykethompson) December 25, 2022
Yesterday, Black Panther actress Angela Basset’s son, Slater Vance faced backlash after he pulled a similar prank on Basset. He told her that her co-star Michael B. Jordan had died, after which Angela and her husband were both visibly distraught. Vance removed the video shortly after he uploaded it, and then posted an apology video.
The only difference between Vance’s prank and all the others is that Angela personally knew the celebrity who had “died”. Angela Bassett and Michael B. Jordan have worked together in Marvel’s Black Panther (2018) and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022). The two are reportedly good friends, and had to deal with co-star Chadwick Boseman’s death in 2020 as well. People widely called Vance out for his insensitivity in light of this.
Tiktok gave rise to multiple trends in recent years, that people have deemed insensitive. In 2022, many nurses and doctors took to Tiktok to ridicule patients for their pain tolerance, which people felt was insensitive and cruel. And in December, a group of nurses joked about how some pregnant people refuse an epidural even though they’re in intense pain. Their employers fired them immediately after backlash from the internet. Some “Tiktok challenges” have also proved dangerous and fatal, like the skull breaker challenge and the face wax challenge that took over the internet.
When it comes down to it, it is surprising what people would do for the views. Even in the pre-TikTok days, disgraced YouTuber Logan Paul faced heavy criticisism for filming a video in Japan’s Suicide Forest and including footage of an actual suicide victim he encountered. There’s tons of content on the internet that doesn’t exploit people’s emotions for views, and it’s not that much harder to make.