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Heath Ledger: Go with God


I wonder how many millions of people worldwide are depressed right now because of the death of Heath Ledger.

The number has got to be huge. Everyone who saw that picture is now depressed.

Everyone who’s Gay; everyone who’s female; everyone who ever loved, and lost, and somehow kept alive without knowing why.

I suppose it’s only a sliver of the world’s population, but everyone I know is massively bummed out. He was only 28!

And he gave one of the great performances of all time in Brokeback Mountain.

I’m talking all-time great, a portrayal that will be studied as long as film exists, even as DVDs turn into XQDs and God only knows what technology after that. His was a historic performance.

Now, a few hours after his death, I find it dispiriting that the mainstream media, writing instant history as is their job, try to make 10 Things I Hate About You as prominent as Brokeback Mountain.

The man’s legacy is Brokeback. It’s not Casanova.

It’s good that they try to mention all the films he worked on. He had a varied career, as anyone does who works for more than a month in the film business.

But the MSM failure to focus on Brokeback is as silly as highlighting Julie Andrews’ role in Torn Curtain, Hitchcock’s last film. Yes, she was in it. Yes, Hitch promptly died. Julie Andrews is known for My Fair Lady, Camelot, Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music and Victor/Victoria.

Heath Ledger will never be forgotten because of Brokeback Mountain. Hundreds of years from now people will watch him as Ennis Del Mar.

Maybe they’ll only study him to try to figure out what closet cases were like back in the day; but the better-informed people will study his amazing performance.

He made Ennis physical, in all his inarticulate, violent lust and tenderness.

I am talking about the 5th-biggest Western of all time; the 8th-biggest film romance. Brokeback was an amazing, huge hit, backed by a textbook (and homophobic) marketing plan.

It took me two times of watching the movie, and writing two different reviews, to appreciate Ledger’s performance. I was so enthralled by Jake Gyllenhaal the first time, I couldn’t even locate Heath Ledger. But the second time I watched this picture, haunted by it as most viewers have been, my jaw dropped in utter amazement as Ledger dominated the screen—filled as it was with Ang Lee’s gorgeous photography and a haunting score, as well as Anne Hathaway’s scorchingly brittle portrayal as Gyllenhaal’s wife. Man, I hated that bitch, which only shows you how good Hathaway was.

The story is told from Ennis’s point of view, which makes Ledger the star of the picture. Some people call it a “weeper.” The innocent simply cry.

I am concerned tonight for my friends Jonathan and Lydia, who met online at the Ultimate Brokeback website and became fast friends to each other, and then to me last year. No one in the world imagined the gifted Heath Ledger dead at 28. His dying brings back all the pain of frustrated love affairs between people who could not tell each other the truth, which led to the creation of the Ultimate Brokeback website, and the wrenching, funny book it produced.

An amazing community developed on that site; a community where members actually care for each other, because they know how fragile love can be.

I pay zero attention to pop culture, and would never have known about Heath Ledger without Brokeback Mountain. Therefore I’d never have known about the loving, supportive, delighted community that developed online because of it.

Y’know, a movie’s just a movie; but when it inspires thousands of people to care for each other, it transcends the movies and becomes something else, a kind of Gospel.

For an actor to inspire people to speak peace and love to each other, something divine must have occured. Heath Ledger caused that Good News to be spoken.

Now he has gone on and we are left to wonder about the irrational, the unexplainable, the unfair, the aching. And we mourn; he was a great talent, an inexplicable artist.

But Jesus wept the first time he saw Brokeback Mountain the same as you did; and now Jesus welcomes a handsome, flawed and gifted prodigal son. The headline in heaven tonight is “NOW APPEARING: HEATH LEDGER!”++

One Response

  1. Josh,

    That is such an inspired reaction to Heath’s passing. Yes, a lot of us are bummed out in a major way–all the more so the Forum community, since one of our dearest and sweetest members is in hospice dying much too young–but you’re right: Brokeback Mountain will live on, and people will be wondering at Heath’s performance centuries from now, if the human race survives. The first time I saw it I hardly even noticed Jake Gyllenhall, I was so staggered by Ledger’s performance. It was simply one of the greatest pieces of acting I had ever seen.

    Thank you for your concern for me and Lydia. It is a pretty rough time. It’s made easier by having caring, discerning, and loving friends like you.


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