On February 2, 2015 Monty Oum—an animator for the popular Internet media company Rooster Teeth—passed away. He spent several weeks in a coma after having an allergic reaction during a routine medical procedure. This led to his eventual death.
There is an odd distinction between the deaths of average human beings and those who have reached a pinnacle of fame. That isn’t to say that one person is more important, or one death is sadder, but there is a different air to it. Robin Williams’ tragedy was mourned on a wider scale, sure, but also a less personal one than, say, your average Jolene.
So, what happens when the world loses someone who falls in the middle?
Oum’s talent was undeniable. After dropping out of high school, he taught himself to reverse engineer video games, allowing him to make the fan video Haloid, which depicted a showdown between popular characters from the Halo and Metroid franchises battling it out.
He did this so well, it got him professional animator work with companies Namco Games, Midway Games, and eventually Rooster Teeth—where he would create and animate the online Anime series RWBY. This show was so well received that it earned Oum an online cult following.
This shows in the over four million views on the pilot of the show, and the almost 5,000 comments on Rooster Teeth’s announcement of his death— comments that range from “terrible news. I’m so sorry” to “I’m sobbing in class, we love you Monty”.
In spite of all that, if you ask a person on the street how they reacted when they found out Monty Oum died, they would probably look very confused, and ignore you.
There is something confusing and disturbing about the death of Oum. He was young, only 33 years old, and what killed him was in the end just an oversight that really wasn’t anybody’s fault. On top of all of this is the question of how to react.
We know what losing a loved one is like and how we should feel. We know that they will, overall, leave the world quietly, most likely surrounded by their loved ones. A celebrity, however, will go loudly with whatever noises their fans and paparazzi will make.
This is what makes Oum an odd case. He has the fans, he has the personality, and for a lack of less crass phrasing—he has the production value. But for Monty Oum’s fans, he didn’t pass away and leave a trail of kicking and screaming behind him.
Rather, he slipped away quietly—a personal and separate tragedy for everyone that appreciated his art.
If you want to learn more about Monty Oum and celebrate his art, the Comic and Manga Coalition will be holding a screening of the first season of RWBY on Thursday March 5 in Carwein Auditorium (Key 102) from 6:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m., as well as a tribute video created by Rooster Teeth.