23 January 2008

So Sad

I don’t know about you, but the wind was knocked out of me when I heard the news that Heath Ledger was found dead. It wasn’t like I was a huge fan. I haven’t seen every film he made. I didn’t follow his career. Yet, it was a stunning loss. How very sad that someone so young and talented would be gone so suddenly. And sadder still that a two-year-old will grow up without her father, with few or any memories of him to take with her. But, perhaps the saddest aspect is that cameras, scandal and innuendo will be linked to his passing for the foreseeable future.

It’s a bit too Anna Nicole Smith, if you ask me. And this young man did not deserve that. Have we lost all dignity and sense of propriety when it comes to celebrity death? Why was Heath’s body bag newsworthy? Did TMZ need to stream live to catch it? The throngs of people gawking on Broome Street were not there with hats in hands, heads lowered to give a show of respect. They were there with cameras and craned necks to get a glimpse of his gurney. For what? Money, if they were members of the slimy media covering the scene. And, if not that, is it something worth noting in one’s journal? Dear Diary, Today I camped out in front of the apartment of an actor who died so I could see his corpse wheeled away. Is that something to tell the grandkids about? Loser much?

Heath Ledger had a public career yet he chose to live a private life. He deserved (and still deserves) our respect and for him to maintain that privacy. Unlike the Anna Nicoles, Britneys, Parises and Lohans of the media-whoring world, he didn’t court the cameras, didn’t ask us to watch his every move, didn’t beg us to notice him. Unfortunately, now the cameras won’t take their eyes away.

It’s troublesome that the masseuse chose to call another celebrity instead of 911, but it’s almost understandable if you think that a call to emergency services will go across the police scanners, which the media lives by. Paparazzi would arrive before paramedics. I am not saying this justifies that action. Not at all. But, knowing how some in the periphery of celebrity will go to great lengths to protect those they work with, it wouldn’t surprise me if that was why she made that terrible decision.

I couldn’t be more a defender of freedom of the press and First Amendment rights, but I don’t think the paparazzi falls under that umbrella. They aren’t journalists; they are freelance hunters stalking prey, baiting them, collecting trophies for prize money. What they do isn’t for the greater good of society. It’s for larger sales on the newsstands. And something needs to be done about them before Britney runs over something more that toes.

I hope that in the days to come, some respect will be shown to Heath Ledger and his family. If not for him or them, then for that little girl too young to understand that she won’t see her daddy again.

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