Health Communication| “She Died of a Mother’s Broken Heart”: Media and Audiences’ Framing of Health Narratives of Heart-Related Celebrity Deaths

Hilde Van den Bulck


Taking the case of the heart-related deaths of Alan Thicke, Carrie Fisher, and Debbie Reynolds; working from a critical, constructivist approach; and applying a qualitative, inductive framing analysis to a sample of online news and audience reactions, this contribution analyzes the role of celebrities, media, and audiences in framing health narratives relating to a celebrity death from cardiovascular issues. It identifies several frames developed by media and audiences in narrating the celebrity’s health and passing. It shows how framing is affected by knowledge of and views on cardiovascular conditions, by a celebrity’s life story and audiences’ appreciation of the celebrity, and by audiences’ views on the media they consume, their personal experiences with cardiovascular related illness and death, and their conversations with peers. The article finishes with a discussion of how these results have relevance for health communication objectives.


celebrity, health narratives, framing analysis, media coverage, framing reception, parasocial relationships

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