When Heath Ledger died I was in grade eight. I didn't know who he was and I hadn't seen him in any of his several movies. In fact, to expand on the truth of my ignorance of his identity, at first I believed his name was Keith. But when I watched the remake of The Four Feathers I got to know a tiny bit of who he was and his death became a great loss. I get what you might be thinking: "You don't know a thing about the guy. You've never met him. Cut the cliché" but that's not entirely right. I have no clue what he loved to do in his free time, what his favourite colour was, who his family was... but I was privileged to see him create his art and every artist knows that when they create their art, their gift and their passion they express a bit of themselves. So I was able to see this artist in action and now I know how incredible and terrible a loss it was when he overdosed in 2008.
Yesterday it was as if the realisation of Heath Ledger's talent occurred all over again when Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who I've seen in films and already admired greatly, passed away at 46 years of age. You see, I got to see this actor and artist create his art and I know how terrible a loss it is. I don't know his family, his favourite flavour of ice cream and etcetera but at least I know a bit of him through his work.
I guess the point that I've been pathetically trying to point out with fervent passion is this: it's okay to grieve for a celebrity, a movie star, someone you never met, someone you only saw on your television screen and on a poster at the gas station, someone who was passionate about their art and tried not to abuse it.
Sure, movie stars make bad decisions and we hear about them everyday. Heath Ledger was in some doozies and Phillip got into drugs early but you know what? They are people too. They are people too. Each one of them is a portrait that God painted.
So many people die everyday in appalling and heinous situations from poverty to murder and for some reason I wrongly feel this irritating guilt for grieving over a movie star. Hollywood is just as much of a battlefield as poverty. And it's alright to wish you could have said goodbye to a movie star.
Some of these stars don't take their jobs sincerely, yes, but others act not for money but for the art itself of telling stories and seeking after answers. I feel like Phillip Seymour Hoffman was one of those passionate artists and visionaries and seekers.
"Oh, that guy in Patch Adams died. That's sad," someone might say as they scroll down their Facebook page and then fascinate themselves with a convivial vine video. No judging, you must understand, only asking you to think of these artists as creations of God and not just troubled movie stars. They never were just "celebrities".