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R.I.P. Heath Ledger

by Stephanie Casher on January 23, 2008

Today I learned the news of the tragic and untimely death of one of my generation’s most talented actors, Heath Ledger. I didn’t know him personally, of course, but for some reason, I am reacting to the news as if he was a friend of mine. I am deeply saddened, outraged, and in an odd state of mourning over this man I never knew. I swear, I haven’t felt this way about a celebrity’s passing since Aaliyah died in August of 2001…

Heath Ledger first won my heart in the critically acclaimed and stunningly beautiful “Brokeback Mountain.” Heath took a character most actors wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole (straight men and their freakin’ homophobia), and turned out a touching, complex, Oscar-worthy performance. Heath had me in awe throughout the entire movie, and you could just tell there would be great things to come from this young man. With an on-screen aura and individuality that reminded me of Leo DiCaprio or Johnny Depp, there was nothing cookie cutter or pretty boy about him. He was my kind of celebrity–complicated, a bit reclusive, and totally down-to-earth. He wasn’t trying to be all “Hollywood”, he just wanted to make good movies, and I really respected that about him. Almost as much as I respected and admired the way he loved his daughter and cherished being a father to her.

In my distress, I feel compelled to do some venting about something that has been bothering me for some time. I don’t give a fudge about the supposed ‘freedom of press’ — something needs to be done about the media and the goddamn paparazzi. Seriously. Individuals have a right to privacy, and I don’t think the media should be able to violate those rights just to get a scoop or a story. What these vultures have been doing to cover the Ledgers story all day in the name of “news” is inhumane, disgusting and quite frankly, making me sick to my stomach.

The news of Heath Ledger’s death broke around 2pm PT today, roughly three hours after his body was found. Immediately the media was camped outside of his apartment, trying to get the “story”, reporting uncorroborated facts, starting hurtful rumors, speculating on the cause of death, and trying to get photos and video of his body being removed from the premises. Disgusting, absolutely disgusting. These people have no respect for the dead, OR his poor family, who found out about their son’s death on television before they could even be properly notified by the police. Can you imagine?!?! And as if the shock and trauma of his death wasn’t enough, they had to contend with false media reports implying that it might have been suicide or drug-related? This is the most irresponsible journalism I’ve ever seen. Are any of those idiots medical examiners or police detectives? Then shut the fuck up already and leave the investigation to the professionals!

It’s the same thing with the treatment of Britney Spears. The way the paparazzi swarm around her, so quick to publicize her every slip up and unflattering moment, its almost as if they want to drive her to an early grave because it will sell more papers. As a matter of fact, the Associated Press has already written Britney’s obituary, which I find to be totally disturbing. The girl needs help, not to be stalked by people who can’t wait to profit off her death. Seriously, what is wrong with people?

I realize part of this is the fault of the consumer. We live in such a media-saturated, celebrity-obsessed world that people have gotten used to these voyeuristic glimpses into stars’ lives, and paparazzos wouldn’t have jobs if people didn’t devour tabloids like potato salad at a picnic. But I’m becoming increasingly troubled by the degree to which people think they are entitled to know things about other people’s lives that are just none of their business. Celebrities are people, just like you and I, and they are entitled to a degree of privacy. Am I curious as to what killed Heath Ledger? Of course I am. But I can wait until an autopsy is performed and information released, IF the family chooses to release such information. I don’t need the minute-by-minute, play-by-play of each development, or wild, sensationalist speculation tarnishing his good name. What if his daughter was old enough to understand what was going on? How would it affect and traumatize her to read the false reports that her father committed suicide? How does that help her in her time of intense grief? The pop culture machine is out of control and I’m tired of this crude and insensitive coverage that does nothing to respect the dead, or the living for that matter. It makes me wanna charter a Hummer, find a field of paparazzi, and mow every last one of them down. Sick bastards.

The worst part about all this is Heath’s well-documented disdain for the paparazzi and the way he guarded his privacy in life. He would probably be most disturbed, if not downright furious, by the media circus that has erupted around his death. This irresponsible coverage does not honor him at all, and I wish they would just let him rest in peace already…

My prayers go out to his family, friends, and all who loved him… His light and energy will be missed.

R.I.P. Heath Ledger
April 4, 1979 – January 22, 2008

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