Like many, I was shocked yesterday to hear of Heath Ledger’s death. If you asked a sample of people about who the next young celebrity to die would be, I would guess that Heath’s name would never come up. He didn’t seem to get a lot press for anything outside of his body of work (and his relationship with co-stars), but critically he received much acclaim. All of which probably combined to make his death all the more shocking.
As startling as news of the young actor’s death was, more astonishing has been the press coverage. A quick visit to People.com and you can receive a timeline of the young man’s life, hourly updates as to what friends are saying, what the medical examiner is saying, who could have seemed this coming, etc. Random eulogies from former co-stars abound. It’s all mind-boggling. All the more so because young people’s lives from across the globe are terminated every day – often through choices not their own – and the press barely pays attention. As mentioned previously, I have a personal interest in the violence in Kenya and now – even as things once again intensify – I have to search for news on the subject. A whole country is being torn apart and in less than three weeks time, we’re too bored to pay attention.
I understand the fascination with new. In fact, since I’m in marketing, I exploit it. But somewhere along the line, news became sensationalism and what was the most sensational is what we discussed. Import is based on the extent that the subject shocked us, and not on the impact it has. We’ve focused on the latest in abandonment of the lasting.
Writing this, I know I’m the worst offender. I’m fascinated by lives of people whose claim to fame is the ability to pretend they’re something their not. Maybe if I was a little bit more impressed by those who were genuine, my priorities would be more aligned with God’s.