Again, much respect to MikeAlva (see previous reply).
I think it is ridiculous to obsess over celebrity. I tend to shy away from everything Hollywood. But on occasion you get an artist with integrity, and even more rarely someone who puts their career on the line for something they believe in. Heath Ledger was one of those guys, and there are so many in the gay community, especially in rural areas, who definitely benefited from Brokeback Mountain and his work in portraying his character. He touched a community, and so even a cynical, anti-Hollywood guy like myself feels the need to say something out of respect for him.
We obsess about our bodies, our looks, our music, our love or hate of Abercrombie, what is cute and fuzzy and worth saving and what is dinner, who above us on the glowing screen we’d like to bang, etc. But when we hear about someone influential who felt so desperate about life that he either decided to indulge in a fatal level of drugs, or simply killed himself intentionally, that puts our aforementioned little problems into perspective. So many of us pause, reflect, maybe mourn a little, and then (sometimes quickly, sometimes not) we find our own perspective and get back to the larger problems the world, our society, and our community faces.
I watched a lot of TV last night, but I did not spend a single second watching the TV news, because I know that the media will focus on this 24/7 for far too long. Why? It sells ads. Heath Ledger needs to be remembered. Please do, gay men. But don’t get too caught up in the hoopla. There’s little else left to do but get on with our lives and tackle the bigger problems out there.
This being said, it is immoral and disrespectful to try and take away someone’s mourning before they’re ready. I lost my Dad two years ago, suddenly. The death of someone who influenced us, whether in our own families, or to a lesser extent on the big screen (for better or for worse, an important influence in our culture), is something we feel we need to stop and acknowledge. Respect is due. Anyone who tries to take that away from those of us who have felt loss, all in the name of “there are worse tragedies in this world” has obviously never delivered a eulogy. Anyone who tries to diminish how we feel, right at that moment that we internalize the loss of someone who touched us, has no sense of timing or tact, and is one of those “ends justify the means” people. It is characteristic of an adolescent mind.
Side story: The Sunday after 9/11/01 I went to the local Austin church to mourn and get the metaphorical “group hug”. But that’s not what we got. I was disappointed at the minister. Instead of delivering a gentle sermon on the tragedy, he went into a litany of political and cultural reasons why we were attacked. Were his words correct? Eventually, yes. But his actions, in the context of that week, were dead wrong. It was way too soon. As my minister (same denomination) back home in Mass. said “your [Austin] minister screwed up.” His adolescent mind failed to realize tact and timing, and the needs of the congregation. I walked away from that Sunday service in 2001 disappointed, confused, and as rattled as ever. The minister failed. I am still looking for a church here in Austin.
Anyway back to today and to our community. Although this is a few weeks late, I look at my age and life experience and resolve in this new year to never again argue with an adolescent. After all, few things impact a teenage mind quite as profoundly as being ignored.