Tuesday, January 29, 2008

This Week on Celebrity Autopsy

Thrills! Spills! Chills!
Looks like that baby bump was a tumor after all!
All the news you never wanted on your favorite celebrities and more - from beyond the grave!

Naturally, you realize that give or take another year or two, a real TV show like this is inevitable. You thought you loved them before? Love them more as we make the lifeless meat puppets they've been reduced to dance around for your entertainment and pantomime public service announcements! Prepare to save 15% on your car insurance - OR ELSE.

Did you get chills? Did you?

So, America has one thing occupying its mind as of late, and it's a heavy, heavy matter - celebrity deaths. Yeah, gnarly, right? (Well, there's also the effective Political Fistfights! the news media's trying to make the primary process out to be, when what we're seeing is the usual political bickering and some worthwhile commentary on how ridiculously oversensationalized election coverage is becoming - to the point at which it's hurting our democracy. But then, let's face it, democracy's been essentially dead in America for some time now. But don't worry, world! If you feel like criticizing us, we'll come "liberate" you with our increasingly-exhausted military and try to force you to be just like us with our broken patchwork government system! The future is bright! Democracy flourishes when you wave around a bunch of guns and say it does! Also, much of America is still laughing about some dangerous cult.) Sure, we could be focusing on more meaningful things, like finding a real answer to our economic crisis (Yes, Bush, all we need is another tax cut for the rich and for you to flip the rest of us the bird, that'll slap a band-aid on our problem.) or actually paying attention to just how much this administration has lied to us to push this war alone, maybe start calling for actual accountability and oversight, maybe a little of those old-fashioned laws that used to apply to the people in power. But then, what do I know? Hey, look, a dead celebrity, let's mourn their passing as though it's 9/11 all over again! If only we had another nation to blame and bomb!

Was that overdramatic of me? Maybe a little, maybe a little, but what cynic isn't fuming these days?

Earlier this month, Brad Renfro was found dead, with the cause of death still undetermined. Some sort of drug overdose is commonly speculated to be the cause, as he fought his own addiction demons throughout his life, and like many, it looks as though he may have succumbed to them. It's a shame, as he wasn't a bad actor - I'll just remember him for playing one of the few relatively sane characters in Ghost World, which was a fantastic movie. His fans continue to mourn, the media gave him a little time, and then moved on.

A week later, and now just a week ago, Heath Ledger was also found dead in his own apartment, with an official cause undetermined as well. Going on report and talks, however, it seems he either overdosed on sleeping pills or took them with something he shouldn't have by accident, as it seems more likely it wasn't a suicide. Ever since one of the world's favorite bisexual cowboys kicked it, little else in the news has mattered. Admittedly, I was never a particular fan of Ledger's, though I have nothing but sympathy for his family and friends, and on a more human level, there's no denying the tragedy of his passing. (On a professional level, I'm admittedly feeling particularly sympathetic to Terry Gilliam, who was nowhere near finished with the film he was working on with Ledger.) I'm especially sympathetic to Michelle Williams and their kid, as what they're going through now is a kind of pain I know I'm not familiar with, but that it must be devastating. Even now, a hate group's planning to picket his funeral. (A church hate group - y'know, that special kinda hate Jesus gets behind. At least, according to these depressing loonies.) And hey, Brokeback Mountain may not have been the end-all, be-all of cinema by any stretch of imagination, but it introduced something positive into the mainstream here. Sadly, it figures we'd see something like this even in Ledger's untimely death, simply because some hate-filled individuals have no sense of respect or human decency.

Both of these guys weren't that much older than myself, certainly still in their prime in life. Going on what seems most likely, one simply couldn't beat his own addictions before it was too late, while the other's death was an accident that any of us could easily make - especially when exhausted. When young and living such an active life, it's not uncommon for many to feel like they're immortal. But in the end, those of us in our youth have been given something of a memento mori by these two - a reminder that we're still human, that we still not only can, but inevitably will die.

There's no thinking on this without reflecting on one's own mortality some, never knowing where Death lurks upon his pale horse, ever vigilant to our various personal deficiencies. As humans, we're all inherently flawed creatures on many levels, and death comes far more easily than we like to think about or appreciate. In and of itself, death is inherently tragic, but without death, life loses much of its definition. Life itself is precious by the very token of the fact that it can and will end. We don't know the when, where, or how until it's too late in nearly all cases. But we can learn this much from all this - don't take your life for granted. Death may have taken two talented actors from cinema in recent weeks, but you? You're still alive. Take time out to appreciate everything and everyone you can. Even the little things, like hot chocolate in winter, or a cheesy in-joke between friends - especially things like the curve of a loved one's smile. These are things to cherish and remember, for someday, we shall all be gone. It is best, if you can, to live as openly, honestly, and fully until that time. To enjoy all that you can and die with as few regrets as possible, given that it's virtually impossible to pass on without at least some regrets. Human existence is in and of itself a flawed and bittersweet symphony, after all. Get out there and celebrate.

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