Every Tuesday and Thursday I have a movie class, and on Tuesdays we watch a film. This past class we were in the middle of watching “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” which while a very good film it is also one that a modern generation could easily get bored through. Which since the class is full of discourteous college students it means that there is often whispering and laughing and other forms of carrying on that can be quite disruptive to someone actually trying to enjoy the movie. Really its quite a bit like a real movie theater.
Something different happened this past class, however. I was sitting behind the delinquents when I noticed that a message was being passed amongst them which was promptly followed by a laptop being produced and a website loaded. Three girls crowded around the screen and as soon as the page loaded the entire group let out a unanimous gasp. What could cause three obnoxious movie buffs to speak out in such a startled manner I wondered. I of course did what any curious person would do, I looked over their shoulder to read the headline on the news story they were reading. “Heath Ledger found Dead in Apartment”
It was somewhat surprising I guess, actors in their 20’s don’t often die, but really all I did was go, “huh,” then sit back and continue to watch Mr. Smith show the Senate that he can filibuster for 24 hours straight. It was by all accounts much more interesting than finding out about a dead actor. On further reflection I’m struck by two thoughts. a) Why should I be surprised? and b) Why should I care? To answer the first, I shouldn’t be surprised at all. With all the sex, drugs, and money that goes on in Hollywood its a wonder more actors and actresses don’t overdose on things or commit suicide or get killed by people that don’t like them. What makes Ledger any different from the rest of them – nothing – so I shouldn’t expect that he would have a different possible outcome. To answer the second question, well I suppose someone might care because they thought he was good looking or they enjoyed his movies or something, but since I’m not a member of his family and since he has really made no lasting good contribution to society I can’t really find a reason to care.
Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed “The Patriot” and “A Knight’s Tale” was mildly funny and while we’re on the topic of knights I do very much look forward to seeing him as Joker in “The Dark Knight” but since his only real critical acclaim was for being a gay cowboy, I’m really more inclined to be not interested in his work at all. Frankly, I can’t figure out what the whole fixation about dying celebrities is. There’s plenty of people dying in this world for far worse reasons than being famous and trying to fill a void in ones life with drugs and it seems to me we ought to worry more about those people than some B list actor like Heath Ledger.