“The Joker, actually that was the most fun I’ve had, probably ever will have, playing a character,” Heath Ledger said during a YouTube video.
Post death, Ledger’s words have an ominous ring to them. Indeed, he will never have fun playing another character ever again.
Ninety-nine percent of Americans own a TV. When the owner is suffering from influenza, boredom or loneliness, he or she turns to celebrities for cheering up. Celebrity images follow us to the newspaper laying open on a Starbucks table, the magazines that our friends are reading, the billboards on the commute to school and the propaganda sitting next to the cash register at grocery stores.
Due to this accessibility, we see their faces more often than our grandparents, and thanks to TV news shows, Web sites and tabloids purely dedicated to celebrity gossip, we know their personal lives more intimately than our best friend’s.
Beautiful and successful with riches beyond the average person’s wildest dreams, celebrities are easy to idolize because they have, in essence, captured the American dream of the “better and fuller and richer” life.
There is a certain desire to bathe in the aura of successful people, as though fame were contagious. Most people will easily admit to a celebrity crush. Some people want to become like certain celebrities, such as Angelina Jolie, while some take it farther and want to be Angelina Jolie.
We like them for more than just notoriety and success. We like them because they are able to transcend us from the daily grind of our lives through their art. Sometimes they make us look at the world from a different point of view.
Sometimes they stir emotions. Sometimes they transport us into a fantastic universe that is more fascinating than our own. This is the gift that each artist bestows upon the world and their untimely death symbolizes the end of future contributions.
When an artist dies, it’s almost as though a friend has died, even though we’ve never met them. They will no longer bring us new artwork to enjoy with smiles on our faces, tears in our eyes and laughter on our lips.
Heath Ledger made us laugh in 10 Things I Hate About You and A Knight’s Tale. He transported us back in time for The Brothers Grimm and Casanova.
In interviews, Heath Ledger said that he didn’t like to say his own political views because he was an actor and not a politician.
Yet, Ledger was one of the few actors who showed integrity to the artistic message of his work by choosing edgy roles that had poignant, meaningful messages that the mainstream may have objected to, such as in Candy, where he plays a heroin addict, and Brokeback Mountain.
After his death, anti-gay churches threatened to picket Ledger’s funeral and celebrated that God had taken his vengeance on an actor who dared to play a character with a male lover in Brokeback Mountain.
Disgustingly narrow-minded, these extremists rejoiced that Ledger’s 2-year-old daughter Matilda is now fatherless.
Brokeback Mountain was an important step to bring to the forefront of Americans’ minds the prejudice that gays have faced and continue to face. Although it didn’t change the world overnight, many straight people keep the movie in mind as they support same-sex alliances and marriages.
There are other ways that Ledger has inspired his fans. One example is in Ledger’s hometown, Perth, Australia. Residents banded together to build the $87 million, 575-seat Heath Ledger Theater. The theater’s purpose is to support the dreams of aspiring actors, actresses and stage crews so that other deserving artists can achieve their dreams of entertaining the world.
Artists like Ledger should be remembered. I’ll see you waiting in line for tickets July 18 for The Dark Knight, where we will see Heath Ledger immortalized on the big screen.