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Photos of Angus Cloud and posts memorializing his life are inescapable on Daphne Peniston's social media feeds. At 25 years old, the same age that Cloud was when he died on July 31, the loss of the Euphoria actor is particularly hard for the Gen Z fan to cope with.
"The original TMZ article was dropped in my group chat and no one thought it was true," Peniston tells Yahoo Life of when she first heard about Cloud's passing. "No one believed it."
Like millions of fans across the world, Peniston didn't know Cloud personally but admired his work on the HBO hit series. "I was naturally so pulled into the relationship between both him and [Zendaya's character] Rue, and him and his [onscreen] little brother, Ashtray," she says. She was also incentivized to learn more about the actor in real life. "Angus was so fascinating to me because he was found off the street," she says.
Peniston's response to Cloud's death isn't unusual.
Grieving celebrity deaths
"The phenomena around celebrity death is nothing new; it has been there for a very long time. Ever since we've had newspapers and television, every time a celebrity dies, there is mourning," Samita Nandy, director of the Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies, tells Yahoo Life. "But with the perception of social media and the parasocial interaction that we now have with the celebrity, continuing even after death, there is a level of intensity that wasn't there before."
Nandy illustrates the evolution of mourning with the idea that people used to wear black clothes "as a symbol of grief," while they now feel a responsibility to post about their grief on social media. And while feeling "intimately connected" with celebrity figures isn't new, the ways in which fans are engaging with them after loss looks different.
Most unique to the age of social media is the way in which grief has become a process of "consumption," as audiences get a peek at how a celebrity's family is coping, might be able to livestream a funeral and even engage in tributes to the late actor by cast members and friends.
"That sort of consumption, the identification with it, the aesthetics, the pleasure along with it, it seems to reverse what they're really threatened of, which is mortality," Nandy says.
Why Gen Z is deeply impacted
The death of someone as young as Cloud can "bring a heightened awareness of mortality" to young people, says Colette Sachs, associate therapist at Manhattan Wellness. "Gen Z individuals might grapple with their own mortality and existential questions, leading to anxiety and uncertainty about life's unpredictability," she tells Yahoo Life.
"It's just reminding the young generation that, you know, mortality is inevitable," Nandy adds.
Although this is a concept that people of all ages can struggle with, Nandy explains that it can be particularly hard for people who have little experience with death.
"We haven't been educated on how to grieve or how to cope when death happens, not just in the case of celebrity, but in general," she says. "So it depends on where the spectator is coming from. If a grandfather or grandmother has already died, then quite likely that person is coming with that knowledge."
It can also be particularly painful for Gen Z-ers who view Cloud as a peer — not only because of his age but also because of what he represented through the nature of his work.
"He was a young man who lived a very ordinary life before coming to fame through the hit show Euphoria," Sachs explains. "They might have seen themselves or their struggles mirrored in the role he played, or they might have related to his real-life background or struggles with mental health and addiction, which he spoke about candidly."
She goes on to say, "His death could feel like a loss of representation and understanding of their generation," especially when it comes to Gen Z's "greater awareness and education on mental health."
While Cloud's cause of death hasn't been revealed, his family acknowledged the recent loss of his father and shared that Cloud had "intensely struggled" with it up until his passing.
"As a generation that often discusses mental health openly, Gen Z may relate to the actor's experiences and feel a sense of connection. They might see Angus's struggles as a reflection of the challenges many young people face, including themselves or their close loved ones, making it even more impactful for them," Sachs says. "Knowing that the actor was facing challenges may further motivate them to address the stigma and encourage others to seek support."
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