Celebrity bites

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Within two hours, I had received about fifteen text messages informing me Heath Ledger had died. While I thought that was a bit overdone, I responded to most saying I already knew. Word travels fast in the information age.

While the initial shock was not much for me, it seemed a lot of people were taking it pretty hard. Many were saying it was sad because he was only 28, but I think most were really just sad he would not be in any more movies. Maybe it was much more "tragic," if you will, because he had apparently overdosed in his home. While that may be the distressing case, Ledger has succeeded in securing himself a permanent spot in Hollywood fame.

Ledger followed the classic case. A star on the rise, really popular with all the movies he had been doing, and dying young from an OD. I could start listing the other actors, actresses, artists and singers who have done the same thing, but that would probably fill the rest of this column.

There was a difference this time though. While it would be typical to find jokes about another death of another actor popping too many pills, Ledger was pretty well left alone. Although I did see one asking why couldn't it have been Britney. I chuckled.

Heath did not make many waves when it came to the common Hollywood scandals and gossip news. He was an honest actor. Daniel Day-Lewis has been going to town on honoring Ledger, from his appearance on Oprah to his acceptance speech of his recent SAG award for Best Actor. People are really taking his death heavily.

The irony of it all is where these people land on the totem pole. Did anyone else know Brad Renfro died not long before Heath? I only heard about Renfro when people were talking about Ledger. Now, granted I really do not keep up on celebrity news, I still figured I would have heard something.

And sure, Renfro may have had more run-ins with drugs and the law, but he was still a relatively decent actor. While the drugs may have been the determining factor for his poor press coverage, he died at a younger age than Ledger. It seems rather hypocritical how the public condones the male celebrities who use drugs, but revels in the excitement of the females who slip into that side of life.

While I was watching the memoriam slideshow for the SAG awards (you know, the presentation at all the award shows of all the actors who have died during the year) I found myself surprised at all the deaths I had missed. Sure, many were not as notable as others, but there were quite a few that easily rivaled Ledger's death.

I sometimes wonder if Hollywood is not out of control with all the information it keeps feeding us. One of my friends had a whole weeks worth of New York Posts in the backseat of her car, and every single one of them had Britney Spears on the cover.

I don't think I have seen an entertainment magazine cover NOT have Britney on it until Heath died. We have become so obsessed with these people that it seems Britney cannot sneeze without us knowing about it and questioning why she is rubbing her nose.

I guess pop culture and its allure escapes me. Wait, scratch that. I get pop culture, but I don't understand the people that take so much stock in it. People get so caught up in what is going on in other peoples' lives that they forget what's going on in their own. And it really takes simple, real-life people out of context. Celebrities are put on such pedestals that I'm surprised Britney doesn't have a church dedicated to worshiping her. Actually I should google that. I bet it'd be interesting what would come up.

Either way, it has all gotten out of hand. Yes, Heath was a good actor and it is a horrible shame that he died, but it is also terrible when anyone at a young age with such potential dies. Let's not sit and glorify it for more than it's worth.

* Tyler Kirkholm is a BVU senior from Storm Lake.