Dead celebrities aren’t dead on social media and often command large followings – but things can get complicated when the dead are represented by the living.
Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley have large followings on Twitter and Instagram. The actress, who’s been dead for almost 60 years, has about 1.7 million followers on Instagram and the King of Rock and Roll, who’s been dead for almost 45 years, has 1.1 million Instagram followers.
Both have significant followings on Twitter too.
While that may not be that surprising, it does get strange when dead celebrities engage in endorsements, as pointed out in a paper authored by Andrew Gilden, an Assistant Professor of Law at Willamette University.
This news was first reported by TorrentFreak.
“Marilyn Monroe survives today as a highly-paid celebrity endorser even though she died almost 60 years and her ‘estate’ is controlled by individuals with zero personal connection to her,” Gilden wrote.
“It might seem impossible for someone to make an endorsement after they have died… Nevertheless, posthumous endorsements have become commonplace in social media marketing,” Gilden writes.
This happens because entities have bought into the right to use a celebrity’s name.
And this can extend to political activity also.
Posthumous endorsement laws allow rightsholders to speak in the official voice of the dead, which can then be leveraged for political activity, according to Gilden.
Gilden cited Marilyn Monroe, Muhammad Ali, and Elvis Presley as engaging with the #BlackoutTuesday protests about police brutality, despite the fact that no one knows how they would feel about those issues if they were still alive.
Gilden also addressed issues surrounding Ronald Reagan and Tom Petty during Donald Trump’s reelection campaign.
“Both the Reagan Foundation and the Petty estate objected to certain activities by the Trump Campaign. The Reagan Foundation objected to the dissemination of a ‘Trump-Reagan’ commemorative coin, and the Petty estate objected to the use of Petty’s music during campaign rallies,” according to Gilden.