Thursday, January 24, 2008

Remembering Heath Ledger

I don't pretend to know what sort of human being Heath Ledger was. I know he was a young man before his death earlier this week, and seemed to be relishing his new role as a father. Ledger seemed rather shy and introspective, at least during the few public interviews I saw him give.

But damn, that boy could act.

I thought he was just another pretty face in The Patriot. Then, as if giving the finger to me for pigeonholing him too quickly, Ledger blew me away in Monster's Ball. Ledger's "Sonny" served as the moral compass for the film, and the reason for the personal evolution that occurs in Hank, the character played by Billy Bob Thornton. Ledger's work in Ball was significant enough to make lots of folks take notice, but not a career builder in and of itself.

That came with Ennis Del Mar, Ledger's character from Brokeback Mountain. The character was tough and rough, and very masculine. He also happened to be gay, and in love with another man. Ledger's approach to creating Del Mar helped that character come across as genuine and truthful, and as having a great sense of integrity. I agree with fellow movie-lover Ian Casselberry that Brokeback Mountain is one of the most important films of the last decade.

The importance of that movie became evident this week when bloggers and news sources reported the infamous "God Hates Fags" church, the Westboro Baptist Church, from Kansas, would be protesting outside Ledger's stateside memorial services. “You cannot live in defiance of God,” a spokesperson for the church said. “He got on that big screen with a big, fat message: God is a liar and it’s OK to be gay.”

I doubt seriously that Ledger would appreciate being known for one single role from his career. I do know, though, that the Westboro Baptist Church folk have it all wrong. Ledger's role in Brokeback wasn't important because it slapped a god they happen to worship in the face.

The movie, and Ledger's role in it, was important because of other reasons:

Somewhere in America, after seeing that movie, a kid who previously felt ashamed of his sexual tendencies stopped thinking about suicide. After seeing that movie, at least one set of parents stopped hating their son. Someone who occasionally went out on weekends to bully and beat homosexuals stopped after seeing that movie. And someone who professed to despise the homosexual lifestyle watched Ledger's performance in Brokeback and felt compassion, and made a personal move toward acceptance.

Even if only an inch.

That's Ledger's legacy, at least in my eyes. The "God Hates Fags" people are right about one thing: Ledger did make some powerful statements to his audience. And because of the statements that came from his artistry, the lives of a few people-- and our society as a whole-- are better off.


Hoyt said...

Wonderful post.

Ian C. said...

If I ever encounter anyone who asks what the big deal about Heath Ledger is, I'll refer them to this post.

Ennis Del Mar wasn't just a brave choice for him as an actor; it also showed how seriously he treated his craft.

The Film Geek said...

Thanks Hoyt and Ian. I appreciate it.

Agreed, Ian. He was a true craftsman, which is something we have too little of in this day of hi-tech production and pop star mentality.

Anthony Underwood said...

That was an excellent post. I had to add it to my "blogwatch" on the front page of my web site ( Great job!

The Film Geek said...

Thanks, Anthony. And forgive me, I keep forgetting to add the WV Report to my blogs. I'll do that now.

bionic bigfoot said...

If you really want to get yourself worked up about something...
By The Associated Press – 20 hours ago
As of Thursday, Jan. 24, 2008, at least 3,931 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes eight military civilians. At least 3,200 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

The AP count is the same as the Defense Department's tally, last updated Thursday at 10 a.m. EST.

The British military has reported 174 deaths; Italy, 33; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 21; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Denmark, seven; El Salvador, five; Slovakia, four; Latvia, three; Estonia, Netherlands, Thailand, Romania, two each; and Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, South Korea, one death each.

That of course doesn't take into consideration iraqi casualties OR any deaths in Afghanistan during the same period.
Heath who?

The Film Geek said...

Ah, perspective.

I need to keep those figures in mind if a close family member dies sometime before the war ends. It'll salve the grief.

I figure other blogs will cover that territory, Bionic Bigfoot. I usually don't do war, politics or hot dogs.

bionic bigfoot said...

So you're voting for Obama then?

Jackie said...

I'll remember he called me a "racist bastard" and never apologized for saying it.

I'll also remember that I rented "Four Feathers". He never apologized for that either :O

The Film Geek said...

His comment was that West Virginian's stopped lynching folks 25 years ago. He was off by a few years.

The comment also was a response to reports that some theaters in WV were not going to show Brokeback Mountain. He answered with sarcasm. Kinda like "So you're voting for Obama then."

I said early in the post I have no idea what sort of human he was. But I do know of at least one instance where his role touched some lives, and did some good.

jennyville said...

Word, FG. Word.

Great post.

The Film Geek said...

And I didn't see Four Feathers. :)

Buzzardbilly said...

Really, if you sat all the way through "Casanova" I think people should go ahead and give you credit for "Four Feathers" too. Equally bad.

"Brokeback" more than made up for any of the duds.

It sounds like his "Joker" performance was quite deep too.

Excellent piece.

When he made the lynching comment, I told myself he's a fairly young guy from another country. Whatever he's heard about here he heard from some ill-informed "Jaywalking" mouth breather. At least when I saw the video of that remark, he did preface it by saying "from what I understand" meaning it was not something he knew for sure.