Posted by: alliehope | January 24, 2008

Death of a Celebrity

I have to admit, I wasn’t exactly willing to write this post. That’s why it’s taking so dang long, between when Heath Ledger died and when I finally got around to writing this post. Here it is, Thursday morning, and other than America’s faltering economy, his death is the other top story. I can’t help but wonder what that says about our society.

I wondered, specifically in light of a scary statistic I read the other day, that 33,000 children (roughly the population of one of my neighboring towns) will be dead by the end of the day of completely preventable causes like malnutrition and malaria. I wondered, where are the memorials for them? Who, other than their parents, cries for them when they die before their time? And why does it seem like so many of us just don’t seem to care one bit?

Perhaps it’s simply narcissism talking. Perhaps we think that our obsessions with celebrity are more important than taking up the cause of justice. Further, we think that it isn’t our job, that someone else will take care of them. We think of a Mother Teresa, for example, or a Rick Warren, “celebrities” who are actually using their fame to propel these causes onto the world’s stage, and encourage people to get off their fannies and get involved.

However, that’s really a misleading attitude. Underneath that dismissal is a lot of fear: “The problem is too big for me to solve alone”. What I would say to that is, I hate to say it, unprintable. What’s behind that is the knowledge that we each have a responsibility to our fellow human beings, to make a difference in the world.

So, where do we start? I suggest getting hold of Bill Hybels’ excellent book, Holy Discontent. It will help you identify the causes that most clearly resonate with you, and link you up to resources and people that can help you make an impact in those areas.  Even if you aren’t a Christian, his belief in personal vision is inspiring, and his call to make a difference with your life is even more so.

So in light of all this, I’m not saying that what happened with Ledger isn’t a tragedy. Please don’t get me wrong on that. What I am saying is that it should be a serious wake-up call for us to re-evaluate our priorities. I believe that as we do, we’ll find that one celebrity’s death pales in light of what goes on in the world each day, without our awareness. It is a time for us to re-think about ourselves, and our place in the world we live in.



  1. The celebrity culture has got us thinking that a leader is just a tragic hero, someone who gains fame and/or wealth only to lose it all through a character flaw like addiction.

    If people stopped paying attention to the media coverage of such tragic heros, we’d stand a much better chance of getting authentic news.

  2. Valid points.

    I think we, as a society, have had skewed priorities for some time, and it’s not easy for many people to focus on what truly matters (not that the death of HL shouldn’t matter at all).

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