Sunday, January 27, 2008

Funereal Hysteria

As predicted, the "public mourning" for Heath Ledger has died down as news associated with his death begins to drop from the headlines. Barely a week ago I found myself the target for "cyber assassination" for openly criticising the public mourning for an actor whom none of us really know other than the roles he played and what the tabloids report.

"He's dead. He ain't getting any deader. Get over it."

Not that I am being insensitive. It's a tragedy that one so young with such a bright future ahead of him is prematurely snuffed out but that is all there is to it for one among many who doesn't know who Mr. Ledger really is. Closer to home, if anybody really bothered to read the newspapers nowadays, the promising life of a young medical student had also been prematurely terminated in a road accident caused by a bus driver with 30 summonses. As far as I am concerned, she deserved to be mourned as much as Mr. Ledger, but nobody but her family and friends are feeling it. The only difference is she was not some celebrity who frequently made the pages of magazines and entertained us on the silver screen. But she could have been a promising doctor who might have saved plenty of lives if she had lived. So no, I do not believe in mourning for people I do not know, especially foreign celebrities, as influential as they may be.

I also find it strange that people feel for Heath Ledger for the roles that he played and not the life that he led - namely Brokeback Mountain. First of all, Heath Ledger was not gay, and neither was Ang Lee's adaptation of Annie Proulx short story about gay cowboys very realistic either. Remember it was a story written in such a way as to play with one's emotions. Pity that nobody really remembered his role as a gay athlete having to deal with prejudice and coming out in the Australian teen series Sweat which was by far more set in reality. I find "I wish I knew how to quit you" cheesy at best.

Whilst Mr. Ledger is being buried amidst the media circus and mass mourning surrounding his tragic demise, many also seem to have missed the circumstances of his death. Though purely through evidential speculation at the moment, he seem to have overdosed on prescription drugs - a disturbingly common tale associated with celebrities nowadays. Don't get me wrong, I am not belittling those with illnesses that genuinely need such drugs, but people are turning to using prescription drugs as easily as popping a couple of aspirins. Though it is unknown as to whether Mr. Ledger truly needed them, the more nagging question was did he know the dangers of it. There was a lesson to be learned from his death and from many others that died like him, but many seem to be more interested in lamenting how they will never see his presence on the silver screen again while many more turn to drugs because it seems like such a hip thing to do when you are "depressed".

Make no mistake, Heath Ledger was very human. He was a father, a brother and a son. But like every one of us he was just as fallible. To quote Neil Gaiman's The Sandman character Death:

"You lived what anybody gets, Bernie. You got a lifetime. No more. No less. You got a lifetime."

It couldn't be more aptly said. So enough with the howling hysterical sorrow and let the dead sleep.

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