Why Do We Mourn Hollywood (Heath Ledger)?

by J. J. HUNSECKER · January 28, 2008

hollywood_sign.jpg

Why do we mourn Hollywood? Thanks to all the media whore outlits, it has gotten to the point where writing about Heath Ledger's passing is beyond trite. Unfortunately, this whorishness will continue at least until the Oscar's are over, where it is sure to be hitting you over the head until you have a full on concussion. In all seriousness, however, there is one aspect about the whole tragedy that many of us, heretofore, have yet to deconstruct. Why were we so genuinely shocked when we first heard the news? Why did we feel some genuine component of sorrow? Whether out of shame, obliviousness, or fear, many of us have not answered this question.

Most of us never knew Heath Ledger, and yet we somehow felt like we did. His life was anything but heroic, and yet it commanded so much more than any of the lives of our fallen heroes in Iraq. And his death was anything but honorable; it was either voluntary, or maybe ridiculously, involuntary.

So again, why the feelings? A lot of sheepish insecure people would crucify you just for admitting such a thing out loud. Those types of people want a black and white answer for everything, or want to cease on an opportunity to demagogically gain the upper moral hand. But the world is not so simple, calculus involving only the variables troops, Heath, and some output of sorrow, neglects the lurking variables and will invariably lead you to folly.

What did Heath mean to us? Is he more of an idea to us than a person? Was he democratically elected by us, the fans, to represent us and our culture? Or is the vicarious nature of the mind such that the proscenium between reality and illusion is diaphanous?

Heath meant nothing to us in the flesh and blood, but the concept of Heath meant very much. This dichotomy is one many people can't or won't accept. We didn't feel sad for Heath's passing as a mortal, how could we we didn't know him, we felt sad for him as an immortal. Like it or not, Heath was naturalized and popularly elected by all of us. Each one of us had our own reasons, some felt stronger about his election than others, but in the end, Heath won a place in our minds by triumphing in the agon of all thoughts. Why he triumphed, is something each of us have to answer for ourselves.

And let us not regret or be abashed by Heath's residence in our mind. He occupies a spandrel that will always exist and is a part of being human. This space is not far from dreams and hope. Let's just make sure this space continues to be inhabited by Heaths and not Paris or Britney.