O.J. Simpson just died. Is it too soon to talk about his troubled past?

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Social media feeds fill to the brim with capital "RIP" letters and heart emojis after a prolific celebrity dies. Well, not always.

O.J. Simpson – the football star and actor acquitted of the killings of his ex-wife and another man with her that night – has died of cancer at 76. The jury in a civil trial found Simpson liable for the double murder, and he later served nine years in prison for his role in a botched armed robbery.

It completed a stunning fall from grace for the once-celebrated running back who won the Heisman Trophy in 1968. He capitalized on his athletic success in Hollywood, developing a career as a successful actor and TV pitchman. But it all came crashing down after the murder charges that riveted America.

"During this time of transition, his family asks that you please respect their wishes for privacy and grace," Simpson's family wrote in a post on X. Of course, the memes and snark poured in anyway.

But think about other deaths of controversial figures from the last few years: Paul Reubens, also known as children's entertainer Pee-wee Herman, who died recently after a private battle with cancer at age 70. And Jerry Lee Lewis, who died in 2022 at 87. His career tanked after it came out that at age 22 he married his 13-year-old cousin.

Often mentions of these moments erupt in controversy, which is not surprising. After someone dies, fans often turn on those who try to disparage them.

Experts say no timeline exists for when it's OK to talk negatively about someone after they die. Rather, they say, a celebrity's alleged misdeeds as well as how they died may impact the appropriateness of various responses.

More on O.J. Simpson: O.J. Simpson dies of cancer at 76, his family announces

'Sacred space' gone after someone dies

Take comedy icon Jerry Lewis or Hugh Hefner. Both died in 2017 at age 91, but their names have popped up well after their deaths. Several of Lewis' female former co-stars accused him of sexual harassment and punitive behavior in an article last year in Vanity Fair. And Hefner's former girlfriends, Playmates and employees alleged a culture of abuse in A&E's documentary series "Secrets of Playboy."

More than enough time has passed to allow for a closer examination of these stars, Robert Thompson, founding director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at the Newhouse School of Public Communications Syracuse University, previously told USA TODAY.

OJ Simpson's Bronco chase riveted America. The memory is haunting, even after his death.

In fact, these conversations may have happened a lot sooner if these stars died today.

"There did used to be a sense that there was this almost sacred space after someone had died," Thompson says. "You didn't say anything bad at their funeral and you waited a certain time before you said something bad thereafter. That included your uncle, and it included celebrities."

Lines blurred of 'appropriate' and 'inappropriate' grief

The internet and social media altered the way people communicate. Newspaper editors and heads of television stations previously called the shots on what was appropriate to talk about. Now? Individuals speak freely, online, whenever they want.

"The lines of 'appropriate' and 'inappropriate' grief expressions, public conversations about their lives on social media – both positive and negative – and time limits, are immediately blurred and often unacknowledged," Melvin L. Williams, associate professor of communication studies at Pace University, also previously told USA TODAY.

Different cases call for different responses after someone dies, of course, including how someone died.

To think about: It’s time to cancel ‘cancel culture.’ Call it ‘accountability culture’ instead.

'We were a little too polite and decent'

Our collective raised consciousness – which has grown in the last decade in tandem with the rise of social media – only accelerated further due to the #MeToo movement. Many stories never discussed before, particularly about prominent men and their abuses of power, suddenly saw the light of day.

"I don't think there will be any time period after, let's say, Harvey Weinstein or Bill Cosby die," Thompson says. "They will be open season for that kind of thing. We already saw it with Jeffrey Epstein. Nobody was waiting to be polite to Jeffrey Epstein until X number of time had passed."

Reaction to Epstein's 2019 death was exactly how it should have been, Williams says.

"There should be conversational differences when speaking of a convicted celebrity versus an alleged criminal celebrity figure," Williams says. "However, in the court of public opinion, there exist gray areas where some alleged celebrity figures never supersede their accusations, even when proven innocent."

Caitlyn Jenner, more react to O.J. Simpson death: 'Good riddance'

These days, even the nicest person in the world could die and some people would still stomp on their (virtual) grave.

"Social media has really lowered the barriers of what's considered polite and decent," Thompson adds. "But I don't want to say that's necessarily a bad thing because we were a little too polite and decent about a lot of things that we didn't talk about that we should have been talking about."

Contributing: Josh Peter

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: OJ Simpson and talking about troubled people after they die