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A “Friend” Died But We Never Knew Him, So Why So Sad?
Dr. Patricia A. Farrell -- Psychologist Dr. Patricia A. Farrell -- Psychologist
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Tenafly, NJ
Friday, November 3, 2023


TV shows don’t engender worldwide sorrow, but when Matthew Perry died, things were different. Why?

Matthew Perry, Reuters

Even if they did not personally know him, the passing of a well-known actor like Matthew Perry might have a significant impact on people all over the world. This phenomenon, frequently referred to as “parasocial relationships,” happens when individuals form emotional connections with well-known individuals—celebrities, for example—despite never having actually met.

With the TV series Friends, there was a special connection for millions who related to the show’s ensemble cast and the show’s content. It portrayed what they felt was reminiscent of their lives. When Matthew Perry, the Chandler Bing character, died suddenly, it was more than what we’ve seen when other famous actors die.

Yes, there were crowds and mourning when John Lennon, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, Jim Morrison, and Elvis Presley died, but only Presley's death has resulted in a yearly anticipated outflow of fans to his Memphis grave. Morrison’s grave has been visited regularly for “parties” and painting of the stones or strewing flowers.

Harking back to the 1920s, we can read old newspaper clippings about the “Lady in Black” who appeared at the grave of Rudolph Valentino each year to place roses on it. No one knew who she was—a lover or an obsessed fan who could not wrench herself from the belief he was dead. The stories are legion. It was her connection, it was assumed, in death with a man she may never have met, much less come close to in life. And the stories live on.

With the sudden, unexpected death of Carrie Fisher, who played the famous Princess Leia in Star Wars, there was a tremendous outpouring of grief on social media platforms. Fisher had her own battles with substance abuse, just like Perry, and had become a mental health advocate for those with similar battles. This was their connection to her. Losing her meant losing a “friend.”

Perhaps two threads connected Perry to his fans: his drug addiction and his interpretation of Chandler Bing. Once again, we see how fame and its stresses may lead down the path to addiction, and, despite this path taken, there are those, like Matthew Perry, who manage to win the battle to continue their work.

Unfortunately, not everyone is able to do this, and we mourn the loss of such a burning light in our lives. Drugs, in the end, take their toll on everyone’s bodies, even though they are sober. It is this toll that may prove fatal in the end.

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Name: Dr. Patricia A. Farrell, Ph.D.
Title: Licensed Psychologist
Group: Dr. Patricia A. Farrell, Ph.D., LLC
Dateline: Tenafly, NJ United States
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