Ahh, the holidays — a time for gathering with friends, families, and loved ones… and absolutely torturing them with fake news reports of celebrity deaths.
With folks having ostensibly grown tired of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at Thanksgiving, the trend that took off on TikTok this Christmas weekend found kids and young adults — having clearly already plowed through Emily in Paris — sloughing off their boredom with the celebrity death prank. The setup was simple: Record a video while pretending to look at the phone, gasp dramatically, announce a death, and capture the reaction.
Admittedly, it’s a pretty low-rent, brute-force prank, an internet equivalent of a pie in the face (or a football in the groin). But there’s a reason the pie in the face bit is classic, and it’s because it’s hilarious when a person has pie on their face — just like it’s hilarious watching someone furiously cross themselves after “learning” that Bruce Springsteen “has died,” or smash a car’s center console when told Zac Efron has passed on.
And it’s certainly as funny as watching several people scream in collective anguish after being told Tom Cruise has died while “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” blares in the background.
But the real winners of the viral trend weren’t the kids who went with top-tier A-listers — especially the ones already pushing 70 or 80 — but the random celebrities their victims had a particular attachment to. For instance, two of the most devastating reactions captured on camera were from people told of the faux passings of Fox News and Business anchor Neil Cavuto and longtime Dateline NBC correspondent Keith Morrison.
On a slightly more serious note, some people have been very put off by this trend, arguing that those perpetrating it are in for some serious karmic retribution. We here at Rolling Stone — especially those of us on the news desk — are inclined to agree. Not for any sort of cosmic reason but because the biggest thing we ask for every year is to get through the holidays without having to rush an obituary.