How far is too far?

What do you say on a day like this? Heath Ledger dead at 28… it seems unbelievable. I remember seeing him in Sweat, his first major role; he had such a strong presence that it transcended the screen. There was no doubt he’d go on to bigger things… for it to end so tragically leaves me at a loss for words.

Most people will remember Ledger for his role in Brokeback Mountain but I’ll always remember a scene in Monster’s Ball. He played the son of Billy Bob Thornton, a correctional officer who is overcome as he leads a prisoner to the electric chair. Later he asks if Thornton hates him. His father answers yes. Ledger shoots himself, saying that he always loved him. It’s a torturous scene, sublimely acted… now it seems even sadder.

My thoughts go out to Ledger’s family, his young daughter… this must be so difficult and to live it through the media’s gaze can only make it worse. The coverage was live as Ledger’s body was being taken from his apartment and you could hear the cameraman saying “I’ve got the shot”, others crowding round. Not to mention that apparently Ledger’s parents first heard of his death through a radio report… death isn’t entertainment. Can’t they show a little respect?

Sometimes the media just goes too far. We see it every day with a story about Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan or a dozen other celebrities; there are no boundaries and we just need to look at Anna Nicole Smith to see how it can end. I hope that hasn’t played a part here as well but if it has, shouldn’t we bear some responsibility? We’re attracted to it like a train wreck. At what point do we look away and say they’ve gone too far? Or don’t we even care?

The thing which disturbs me the most is that Ledger seemed distressed by his role as the Joker in The Dark Knight. He called the character a “psychopathic, mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy” and it left him mentally exhausted. Perhaps sometimes actors can go too far in pursuit of their art, get so lost that they can’t find their way back. … surely no role is worth that.

No matter how many films I see, in my mind he’ll always be the 16 year old just starting his career, with so much promise… rest in peace, Heath. We’ll miss you and remember you, always.

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7 thoughts on “How far is too far?

  1. Very nice tribute, CJ…Thanks.. and it is very sad dying prematurely like this….It might not be suicide like the media has been suggesting but still ..In my opinion the media always goes too far for their own interests…

    Rest in peace…

    CJ: Thanks, CV. I was shocked when I heard the news and felt like I needed to write something. It’s terrible when anyone dies at 28 but it’s so sad when it’s someone so talented, who has touched so many people.

    Some parts of the media have shown restraint but all the speculation just seems distasteful… I suppose it’s human nature to be curious, but seeing the photographers clambering on top of each other to get photos of the body leaves a very bad taste in my mouth…

  2. Lovely post, cj. I was saddend by the passing of your countryman at such a young age. I was looking forward to seeing him in more films. I don’t know if I’ll go to see the new Batman or not–not sure if I was going to anyway, as they’ve gotten increasingly darker.
    I so agree with your points about the media vultures. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a major celebrity. I don’t anticipate having the opportunity to find out, but it’s forever life changing, and the pressures must be enormous.

    CJ: Thanks, Muse. It’s hit people very hard over here… we have such a small film industry that we tend to follow our actors and directors more closely than other countries. We’ve watched someone like Nicole Kidman grow up on our screens and it was the same with Heath. That so many people felt like they knew him, if only in a small way, makes it so much sadder.

    I’ll probably see the new Batman; I was looking forward to it as I’ve liked Batman since I was a kid, but I can’t imagine it being the same now… every part of it will seem like a sign.

    The big problem with the media is that public demand chooses what they cover. If people weren’t so interested in celebrity stories I doubt there’d be anywhere near the coverage, or at least they wouldn’t be so aggressive. But I suppose it’s natural that we’d be curious about that lifestyle… I’m with you, though, I can’t imagine what it would be like. I wouldn’t want to.

  3. I was shocked when I found out about Heath Ledger. It is so saddening when someone passes away at a young age. I feel sorry for his family, especially his daughter. This is so unfortunate. I have only seen one of his films, A Knight’s Tale, which, though not exactly a cinematic masterpiece, was a very entertaining film and Heath’s acting abilites were clearly visible.

    As for the media, it always has a tendency to go overboard which is just further fuelled by the masses lapping up everything they offer. I have pretty much stopped watching news channels. Their primary concern is causing a sensation. The news channels here are unprofessional, have no comprehension of the term objectivity and use cheesy headlines to catch attention.

    The other day I was channel surfing idly and some news channel was interviewing a lady who apparently discovered her husband was being unfaithful to her and along with her daughter-in-law and daughter went to her husband’s mistress’ house and started abusing her and hit her. Correct me if I am wrong, but that is not news. They were showing footage of the actual scene and were calling the mistress a shameless women. They said everything except directly calling her a whore. A family’s domestic problem is none of national TV’s concern. I also fail to understand how the people involved allow the media to go nuts like this. I’d never give an interview about my domestic problems. I have way too much self respect to do that.

    I was also most disgusted with the way the Indian media was villainising the Australian team. They were also using headlines like Cocky Aussies Routed in the Battle of Perth. That is in such bad taste.

    CJ: Thanks, Bharat. It’s very sad, particularly when it’s someone so young and with such a young daughter… I feel like I watched Heath grow up and followed him in Hollywood. He was only 5 years older than me and I guess that’s why it’s struck such a chord… very sad.

    The media definitely goes overboard sometimes but I can’t help but feel that we play a large part in it as well… I mean, if we didn’t buy the magazines, if we changed the channel, they’d get the message that this behaviour isn’t acceptable. Of course that won’t happen; people are curious about that lifestyle, so there will always be a market for it… but I can’t help but think we should bear some responsibility when something happens as well… or at least show some respect.

    Your news story sounds similar to many of ours… the media seem to think that important stories are also public interest ones, and while some stories might be newsworthy, that doesn’t mean they should take precedence… there always seems to be a story here about a child who’s gone missing, and that’s sad, but we rarely see Aboriginal children, or children of lower income families. It’s selective journalism… how can we ever get a fair view of the world if that’s what the reporting is like?

    We had our share of outcry over the Sydney Test as well. Most of it was rubbish. I have to say though, I love cricket but I’m not a big fan of the way the Australians play. It was going to happen at some stage and it was unfortunate that it marred such a brilliant match. I was glad India won the third Test; it’s good for world cricket. Hopefully we’ll get a good final match and the series will be what people remember, not the controversy… although maybe that’s wishful thinking.

  4. That was a truly beautiful tribute. I must also add that the Johnny Cash song playing is one of my all time favorites.

    It is sad that the average person looks at fame and think it must be glorious. But yet the famous once they climb over the rainbow many times wish they could return to average.

    I will be coming back to look at this tribute again.

    Thanks, Maribeth

    CJ: Thanks, Maribeth. It’s a lovely video, isn’t it? When I saw it I felt like it said everything I couldn’t, and that song is so beautiful… a wonderful tribute.

    I couldn’t agree more about fame… people have this idea of what it must be like to be famous but it’s never that. Some people want to be celebrities but it didn’t seem to sit well with Heath… that’s what makes this even sadder, that he couldn’t escape it. In the end celebrities are just people… we seem to forget that sometimes, that they hurt just like everyone else.

    I just hope his family can find some peace.

  5. His death seriously sucks. I totally dug him.

    CJ: It’s so sad, isn’t it? He brought the screen to life and gave us so much joy. At least we can remember that.

  6. Sadly missed, It’s hard to express in words his loss to film, but it must pale into insignificance the loss he is to his family & loved ones.

    I made this musical tribute to the late Heath Ledger, featuring Gustavo Santaolalla’s ‘The Wings’ vs Charlene’s ‘I’ve Never Been To Me’. I hope he’d approve. God Bless.

    CJ: Indeed, it’s hard to imagine what his loss really means… his performance in Brokeback Mountain might be a defining moment in film, but that must mean little to the people who miss him so much right now…

    Thank you so much for your tribute. It’s lovely; a beautiful song, and it looks so beautiful in black & white… rest in peace, Heath.

  7. cj, I’m sure you have this story in Aus. As I read that the toxicology report was released, and his death was ruled an accidental overdose of perscription drugs, I was particularly moved by his family’s statement in the sidebar of this report: http://news.aol.com/entertainment/movies/movie-news-story/ar/_a/ledgers-death-an-accidental-overdose/20080206102509990001?ncid=NWS00010000000001

    What a lovely and loving tribute from those who knew him best! And their expression of thanks to his fans was touching as well.

    CJ: Thanks for the link, Muse. The story was just breaking here last night, so I hadn’t had much chance to see it beyond the details… it’s so sad what happened, but it’s a relief in a way now that it’s known it was accidental. All the speculation about drugs and suicide were damaging his memory and he didn’t deserve that… his family don’t either.

    It’s a wonderful tribute they’ve given as well. They’ve found so much strength during all this… hopefully now they can be given time to grieve.

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