Idol Chatter

ledger.jpgWhen I saw this article as a link in one of my daily media e-newsletters, I could barely believe the title. Was it that it was “too soon” for a fictionalized account of Heath Ledger’s final days, or was the whole idea wildly inappropriate, however many months or years pass since Ledger’s January death? I thought about boycotting it out of principle, but I also hold the principle of never boycotting something I’m unfamiliar with, so with some trepidation and a pre-read suspicion that I’d find the piece objectionable, I gave it a read.

Oddly, I found the piece compelling. For the first and second pages, the author paints a conjectured photograph of what a hot young actor’s life might look like, resplendent with decadence, sexual freedom, and a grinning, womanizing Jack Nicholson as your life guru. Mary-Kate makes an appearance, and Michelle and Matilda are referred to, because how could they not be. And in the final moments of Ledger’s fictionalized life, Nick Drake appears with these words as a religious message of sorts to the waning actor, invoking religious iconography in making his point:

After I died, people dissected me. They put words in my mouth: This is how he felt when he wrote this, this is what he thought of me, this is why he did it. F— them. But also bless them. They made me famous. Immortal. Suddenly, my songs, which once were strange and ill-conceived, now were fat with meaning. When you die, you become a Virgin Mary, an untouchable exalted thing with a golden breast and a mink brow. You lose yourself, and they win you. You have no voice, and so a million people breathe and talk for you. Your art is their art. Your casket is their temple, your last words are their next ten commandments.

I don’t want to ruin the end for you, because despite the vulgar language and the depictions of a celebrity’s hedonism, I was surprised to find within it a message of redemption and family values. Of course, many may argue that it’s too soon, and maybe I even agree. And obviously, the writer had no intention of hurting the family and loved ones who were left behind (and she even says so in the piece’s final sentences).
While Ledger would undoubtedly have been unhappy at the theories and speculations surrounding his death and career, he might have found some comfort in knowing that people understood what was important to him, and in knowing that his art had inspired the art of others.

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