Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Heath Ledger

Felicity is right (in her comment on my previous post), I have to write about Heath Ledger. I didn't want to because I wasn't sure I had any right to mourn his death as if I had been any part of his life that made any sense at all. It is so difficult to find the line between genuine concern and plain old celebrity gossip. Christians are especially confused about this, but I think the whole world is really. When it comes to marriages and break-ups and births and style, we are embarrassed that we care. So we pretend that we don't, and we scoff at those who do, and we look at the magazine covers through our peripheral vision ONLY. But when it comes to young mothers losing custody of their children and when it comes to death, we pounce. At that point we feel our concern is acceptable because the magnitude of the sorrow overwhelms the gulf between feeling that we know them yet recognizing that we could not even possibly.

I wonder when people hope for fame, or even for success in the field of entertainment, I wonder if they realize they are giving us permission to care. Someone on Oprah once explained that it is because of our ancestry's tribal tendencies. You knew someone was a member of your tribe simply because you recognized them. Suddenly, Britney Spears feels like that girl we met at summer camp once. And Heath Ledger may as well have been the transfer student in our sixth period history class.

I don't feel embarrassed that I care. I only feel sad that I didn't find a way to think more seriously about Heath Ledger before this moment. I feel sad that I didn't consider his humanity, his religion, or his peace of mind until he died, at which point I thought about them over and over again in a sadly curious and wholly ineffective way.

He didn't really ever give me permission to care. But I do. I just don't know what to do about it.


Tracy said...

I often wonder why I care so deeply about Britney Spears. I never did when she was popular, but now that everyone is attacking her I just want to come to her defense. She's just a young girl, and it makes me so angry that there are adults out there who make their living ripping her apart.
I am so grateful when my girls were growing up that they were surrounded people who loved them unconditionally and were there to encourage them at every turn. How hard must it be for a girl like Britney to grow up with the whole world watching for her to screw up and loving it when she does.
And unfortunately it seems that now she's at the point where she doesn't want anyone to care. She just wants to be left alone.

Felicity said...

Thank you.

Kathy N. said...

And that is why my entire generation is defined by the question, "where were you when Kennedy was shot." Thanks for putting the emotions into words.

Dennis said...

I've had a harder time with his death than I expected. There are a handful of actors that I really like, in pretty much whatever films that they do and Heath was one of them. I think because of this I developed strong feelings for him, though I would not have been able to tell you ahead of time how strong they have been. But, having heard I have felt somewhat gloomy each day, like I had lost a true friend and not the casual sense of loss that I so often connect with news accounts of death. I think you're right not to feel ashamed of being emotional about his death. One, because it seems absurd that we have to know someone "well enough" to care about them. Two, because while it is best that reason keeps some emotions in check we are at our core feeling beings more than thinking beings and we often have less control over what we feel than we would like to think in our calmer moments.

Thanks for saying something here. I have wanted to talk to someone about his death, but did not have a good venue for doing so.

One last reason I think his death may have affected me so strongly is that he was only six months older than I am and left a child behind who is the same age as my youngest.

Here's a hope that this kind of message will be the majority of what his family receives as they deal with their loss as well as the media attention.

Anonymous said...

I find it quite odd how much this death has affected everyone around me. I'm not sure I completely understand why, but I can say that I have friends who are mourning as if they knew him personally, and this is someone who they probably did not pay attention to until now. Some weren't even sure what movies he was in. I am still trying to figure out what it is about this particular passing that has made the whole world gasp and find a way to fight back tears.

Polly said...

I too have mulled this over in my mind more times than I can count. Why do I care so much? I have always had a difficult time inside my head when someone so young, appearing to have so much life ahead of them, dies. But I think what bothers me the most is the thought of little Matilda growing up without her daddy. I inevitably think of my own children and how they interact with their dad. The days he's not around much are hard--I can't imagine if we didn't even have the hope of seeing him "later". I was thinking about Matilda last night, and how Heath now knows (whatever his beliefs were in life, I do not know) the truth of eternity and our Creator. I know what he would want for his daughter. And I decided that while there isn't any way I could possibly express my condolences to Matilda or help in person, one thing I can do is pray for *her* eternity. I will pray for her salvation. I know Heath would want her eternity spent with Jesus.

Molly said...

"it seems absurd that we have to know someone "well enough" to care about them"

Well said, Dennis.

And of course, Serenity, thanks for writing this.

Jenny Hudson said...

I feel the same way. I hate it that I care too late. His death only makes it more clear to me that I need to pray and care for the people I do have influence with. It sadly pushed me into action.

serenity said...

I just wrote a very lighthearted post about Hollywood, thus the label "just for fun", so in case any commenters from this post about Heath come back to this section to see if I cared that you wrote. I cared. I was so moved that so many of you were moved enough to comment. I was so glad that Den had a place to talk about his connection to this actor - you did it so beautifully - and I was so glad that so many of you wrote. Den is right that we should hope these are the kindnesses the family receive now. And I hope in some way even though I "didn't know what to do" about my concern, maybe in this way I did at least a little something about it.