Wednesday, January 23, 2008


By now, most folks have heard about the untimely death of Heath Ledger. Gossip hounds have already begun circling, spouting off about who's apartment he was found in; was he found in the nude or not; and my, there were pills in the vicinity. But what's important is that a gifted young man has died too young, and left a child who will never know her father beyond the pictures, the films and the commentary on his passing.

But there's an element of this all that bothers me, I'm afraid (beyond the salacious nature of the gossip already floating around). Before I get to that, though, I feel I should preface this with this statement: I respect Heath Ledger as an artist. I've always enjoyed his performances, even when it was in dreck like A Knight's Tale. His turn as Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain is in my Top Ten All-Time Favorite Performances. And it is a damned shame that he died. But here's the thing: it's no more a damned shame than when any 28 year old dies, or anyone, for that matter.

That's what bothers me; all this talk of how he was such a talented actor and what a loss it is to the world at large. Well, how is it any less a loss when a 28-year-old press mechanic dies in a work-related accident? How is it any less a loss to that person's family and friends? Is that how we measure a person's worth: what he means to the greater world at large? Are some people imbued with more currency than others? I think this dialogue exposes an unfortunate truth about celebrity and how society-at-large overvalues such a thing. I suppose that's bloody obvious, though, with how much the media is inundated with 24-hour celebrity news. We as a public feel this sense of proprietorship over those that occupy the entertainment industry.

But as much as I enjoyed his work, I refuse to believe that Heath Ledger's death is any more important than that 28-year-old factory worker's. No life is worth more than any other. And while we should mourn the loss of Heath Ledger, we should damn well mourn the loss of any life, no matter the station that person occupied.

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