OBLIGATORY DEATH ENTRY, PT. 1
It’s too bad about Heath Ledger. I’m positive the last thing anybody expected to hear on the news yesterday evening was that Heath Ledger had died. I can’t even say I was an especially big fan of his, or ever gave him a whole lot of thought, but I certainly didn’t want or expect him to die, at least not right away. One could lament the fact that the viewing public will be deprived of future Ledger performances (speaking of which, I look forward, somewhat queasily, to seeing his take on The Joker), but far, far more tragic than that is the fact that his baby daughter will never really get to know her dad, outside of watching his movies, which I guess is a lot more than most children in similar situations get. Still, horribly, horribly sad.
That’s all I really have to say concerning that particular bit of news. A human being has died. It happens every day, from what I understand. Of late, it has also happened to Suzanne Pleshette, Brad Renfro, and Bobby Fischer, all of whom, unlike Ledger, failed to die at the height of their popularity, so it isn’t as sad. It feels like celebrities are dropping left and right, and I find myself unaccountably worried about which beloved, monetarily overcompensated person who plays make-believe in front of cameras is going to die next. Yet daily there are reams of newsprint detailing the demises of decent folk, young and old, from around the globe, not to mention people being shot and tortured to death for no good reason, but how could I possibly bring myself to care about any of them when the guy from “10 Things I Hate About You” has passed away, due to an apparently self-inflicted pill overdose brought on by the malaise that evidently accompanies things like mountains of disposable income and universal critical acclaim.
Now I have no idea what Heath Ledger was dealing with, externally or internally, that led him to wherever he is now, wherever one goes when that happens, and I know that money and fame don’t exactly equal happiness, or at least that’s what rich people tell me when they’re trying to make me feel better about being piss broke, and I don’t proudly make light of a terrible situation; it’s simply the only way I know how to deal with them. I’m just trying to figure out why it’s so sad when celebrities die. We don’t know them, and in many cases probably wouldn’t like them if we encountered them. Following their deaths, our lives are not markedly changed. Often we’re only reminded of their passing months later, when a clip of them smiling wistfully into the distance in one of their movies shows up on the People Who Died Oscar Reel. Speaking of which, do you think they’ll show Heath Ledger last, in the coveted Dead Actor Everyone Liked Best Position? The Walter Matthau position, if you will? It’s always sickly exciting for me to see who goes last on that reel, and to see who gets applause and who doesn’t. And how terrible is that, that not everyone shown on the dead Oscar reel gets a positive reaction? It’s like back in middle school, when they’re giving out various certificates for whatever doofy bullshit everyone did during the year, and the popular kid with perfect attendance practically gets a standing o, and the poor bastard who got a 100 average in chemistry gets silence and muffled insults. Good job showing up, handsome athlete! Fuck you for working hard, awkward dork! Why even bother with the measly applause when the clip of the silent-film era actress who nobody but Leonard Maltin remembers anymore flashes onscreen? Why don’t they just yell out “We don’t care that you’re dead!” and be done with it?
What was I talking about? My head is spinning, I’m gonna have to get back to this.
R.I.P. Suzanne Pleshette.