The Sad Passing of Heath Ledger -- One Week Removed, and Counting

By Omar P.L. Moore/The Popcorn Reel

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

On Tuesday, January 22, 2008, actor Heath Ledger was found dead on the bedroom floor of his fourth-floor apartment in the SoHo district of Manhattan in New York City.  Shock first visited the news, with sadness making for a virtual dead heat.

Immediate tributes were accompanied by what some would characterize as a carnivorous school of media pundits who pounced, dissecting the whos, hows, wheres and whys of Mr. Ledger's death, as if actually carving up Mr. Ledger's demise, or worse yet, Mr. Ledger himself.  (Pseudo paparazzi, perhaps?)  The auto-repeat showings of video footage of the body bag containing the deceased actor being somberly wheeled out into the cool Big Apple night by New York City police personnel was almost too much to bear.  Reporters camped outside Mr. Ledger's apartment for hours, and judging by the looks in the eyes of some of them it appeared as if they were hoping for his second coming.  Yes, it was all more than a tad bit disrespectful, to say the least. 

After all, Mr. Ledger's family cried out for peace and respect, but few in the television media and on the Internet appeared to heed their plaintive call.

The actor had moved to New York City with then-fiancee and "Brokeback" co-star Michelle Williams to attain the anonymity he so desperately sought, and, in a sad and ironic twist of cruelty, ultimately received more attention in death than he ever wanted in his life.

Heath Ledger was a rising acting talent and although noted for his acting skills in such films as "Brokeback Mountain", his work in "Monsters' Ball" demonstrated both a subtlety and wisdom that promised many more fine performances to come.  His work in the forthcoming film "The Dark Knight" as Batman nemesis The Joker has been widely reported among some Tinseltown industry insiders to be nothing less than astonishing.  Most recently Mr. Ledger could be seen on the big screen portraying a manifestation of Bob Dylan in the multifaceted Dylan film "I'm Not There", which was released in the U.S. last November, and had several projects on the horizon including the recent filming of Terry Gilliam's next motion picture in London.

The world will mourn Heath Ledger and remember him as a proficient talent cut down far too quickly -- barely in the prime of his young life.  Mr. Ledger was not one for all the Hollywood rah-rah, as many now know.  By all accounts he was quiet, unassuming and very much a family man.  The Australian thespian was just 28 years of age -- not even three decades to his life resume.  He is survived by his young daughter and former fiancee Ms. Williams, with whom he had amicably and mutually parted ways less than a year ago.

No matter the manner of Mr. Ledger's untimely demise, no matter the mysterious circumstances, thoughts, asinine rumors and unanswered questions surrounding his fate, it is best to give the Ledger family all the space and time they need to grieve.  If one liked and respected Heath Ledger, one should accordingly respect the wishes of his family, especially in grief and the most sensitive and vulnerable moments that come with it.

While the tragic conclusion of Heath Ledger's abbreviated life is newsworthy, it is not exploitation worthy.  Perhaps those media outlets that crossed the line on what was a sorrowful day for the global film community and film fandom would do well to recognize and remember that.

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