Life as I know it… plus commentary

Why we mourn actors

with one comment


Sadly, actor heath Ledger died yesterday.

According to TMZ, he was found by his maid and a masseuse, lifeless.  He’s reported to have been suffering from pneumonia, a bottle of sleeping pills on the dresser and was found naked and face down in his bed.I found out Ledger died because someone on Facebook had changed their status to reflect the news.  A few hours later a friend had posted on his site about the news.  And all over New York, paparazzi swarmed the area of his apartment.  While his death his sad and tragic, I want to take a moment to reflect on us, those remaining who will be checking the news, watching TV for memorials and remembering his movies.One reason we mourn celebrities is we mourn their characters.  Face it… probably less than 50 people really knew Heath Ledger as a friend.  I’m not talking about workmates and hangers on and employees.  I mean people who he’d have called to see a movie or get dinner or walk to Starbucks. 

The rest of us knew him only as Ennis in Brokeback Mountain, Sir William Thatcher in Knight’s Tale or Gabriel Martin in The Patriot.  Good actors can create fully realized characters we empathize with, loathe, are inspired by or any number of powerful emotions.  It’s these “people” we know and care about, not the real actor.  I can know what Gabriel fought for and why William stood by his friends or how conflicted and driven Ennis was.  I have no idea whether Heath was good to his friends, was kind to his daughter or giving to the needy (though I’ve already read many nice things said about him by his friends).

Next, if you’ve been reading the various news sites and blogs, rumors have been flying.  He was found in his bed; he was found on the floor.  There were pills strewn through the bed; there was a bottle on the night stand.  He was staying with Mary Kate and Ashley Olson; the maid called their bodyguard who was also an EMT and Heath’s friend.  Besides the usual desire to scoop one another, I’m going to say the various news services and blogs have thrown fact checking to the wind because they’re grasping at straws.  They want to report anything they can so they can talk about.  So we can talk about it.  We want details so we can try and piece together why a 28 year old man who seemed to be at the top of his game died.  We want to have our theories and ideas so the random and chaos in the world can somehow make sense to us.  Sadly though, things like this happen.  Good people die.  Successful people sometimes can’t deal with their success.  Life in the spotlight can be difficult.  And sometimes, you just take too many pills.

Lastly, I think we get fascinated or shocked by young celebrity deaths because it reminds us of our own mortality.  We think about the tragedy of a life unlived… of roles that might have moved us again that will remain unspoken.  We wonder what we’d do if a loved one died prematurely and we wonder if people would miss us if we were gone.  We wonder if we could make a mistake with dosing and we wonder if we could handle the pressures that drove Heath to using sleeping pills to begin with.

To step on my own point in the very same post I made it…. I’ll say I’ll miss Heath Ledger.  I loved his fantasy series Roar where he played a displaced Celtic prince making his way in the world.  And I loved several more of his roles.  He was a groundbreaking actor who chose great roles over great paying parts.  He will be missed, by his friends, and by people like us.


Written by arnold

January 23, 2008 at 2:41 am

One Response

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  1. I just wrote this an hour ago in my journal:
    Heath Ledger died yesterday! He was my age and made some good movies. He’s in the latest Batman movie which looks tight! It’s too bad. I hope his family is ok. This makes me think though: there are people dying every stinking day who are more worthy of attention, who have really done something with their lives, who were well liked and served their community, who put themselves behind others, who truly believed in themselves and other causes. Now, I didn’t know Heath personally, but he was an actor and actors can be a little selfish (not talking about all of them, mind you). I guess I’m thinking of the bigger picture. Sure, I always thought it would be really cool to put my mark in the world and be remembered as doing something great and being great, but when it all comes down to it, I shouldn’t care what the world thought of me, but what God thinks of me. Not, where was my place in this world, but my place in the Kingdom! If anything about today, that is one positive thing that I thought about and it is a positive thing because I do care what God thinks of me. I know He loves me and I love Him. If anything from Heath’s death teaches me, is that I must serve the Lord and be obedient because it’s not what the world thinks, but God.


    January 24, 2008 at 11:39 pm

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