Some words about Heath Ledger

I was a sophomore in high school when the movie Ten Things I Hate About You came out. I was a huge fan of it (still am), and so was just about every girl I knew. I think we all agreed that Heath Ledger was clearly the hottest guy to wear leather pants since anybody. But my friends (especially Carly and Patty) and I scoffed a bit at the new admirersyou see, we’d been Heath fans for years already, due to our devotion to the short-lived 1997 adventure series Roar. You just can’t properly appreciate the greatness of Heath until you’ve seen him as an Irish prince battling to unite the Celtic tribes against the Romans. I think I’ll be Netflixing that show, as soon as I think I can handle it.

I got calls and messages from at least ten people in the hour or so after CNN posted the news. It feels like we’ve really lost someone who was ours. Someone who was set to be one of the greats of our generation. Flashes, of course, of River Phoenix, or of James Dean. As Becca said to me yesterday, when we see the The Dark Knight we’re probably going to feel a lot like people in 1956 did watching Giant. I bet I’ve had a conversation about what a fantastic Joker Heath Ledger will be every week since it was first announced that he would play the role. How very strange it is going to be to watch that movie now.

I was already sad about Brad Renfro, someone I always figured would eventually find himself the right role to jumpstart his adult career. Now this makes two actors I had a crush on in junior high who’ve died in the past week. It’s a bizarre thought. One of the friends who called me yesterday said “The radio said he was 28that’s the same age as me.” That’s another thought I don’t want to have. It puts into perspective just how young he really was.

People who are actually contributing to art and society should not die at 28. The role of Ennis Del Mar in the masterpiece Brokeback Mountainthat brutal, beautiful performanceis one of the great artistic accomplishments of recent years. It is evidence of a gift. It makes me feel a little sick to think that that is gone now. Maybe it is odd, in the big picture, to be so upset over one person when so many others his age are killed every day, and notably in our own armed forces, in wars we made. But outside of our fascination with celebrity, it is our society’s attachment to art that makes this sort of death feel all the more tragic. We need movies, and not just for entertainment. We need them for the communication of ideas, and for the chance to watch others achieve, and to appreciate their work. So we need people who excel at making movies. When someone dies suddenly like this, like River Phoenix, or like the young, murdered filmmaker Adrienne Shelley, who never saw her film Waitress premiere, or others like them, it’s a collective loss. It feels like something was stolen from us. I am truly sad.

Lastly, I’d like to say that I hope that the members of the media have the heart and the sense to leave Michelle Williams and her daughter alone about this. Whatever they are going through, they deserve to do it in private.


2 Responses to “Some words about Heath Ledger”

  1. 1 patty January 23, 2008 at 11:22 pm

    i was and still am a fan of heath ledger. not to the extent that i made it a point to watch every movie he was in, but what i saw of his skill, i liked. (and yes, i remember having a very big crush on the guy from roar.) i think the reason i wasn’t more rabid about him was because i was waiting for the role that was meant for him, the one that blew him up into superstardom. his portrayal of ennis del mar was supposed to be just the beginning. nevertheless, i’m surprised by how shocked and saddened i am to hear of his death – i don’t pay attention to celebrities. maybe it’s that he seemed to be a normal, down-to-earth guy. it feels like such a huge loss.

    rip heath ledger.

  2. 2 Emily January 24, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    Oh wow, Roar, thanks for reminding me! I was also a big fan, for the short time it was there. I’ll definitely watch it with you when it comes around. I don’t normally care about celebrities, but the loss of such a young and intriguing personality – and by all accounts I’ve seen, not an asshole – is truly tragic.

    I’m sad. And weirded out. That is all.

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Other projects:

Downton Gabby: podcasting about Downton Abbey from a funny, foul-mouthed, feminist perspective

Quick Lit: reading one short story a day in 2015

Grand Dames: collecting sundry achievements of admirable women

The MacGuffin: archive of my days as a film critic

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