Why do we all know that Heath Ledger died?
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heath_ledger.jpgIf this is the first time you’ve heard the sad news, I’m very sorry to break it to you. Heath Ledger died.

But if you’re under the age of 35 and are friends with people who connect with each other on the Internet, I’m guessing you knew within five hours of it happening. And when you did, you might have felt a surge of responsibility to let other people know about this handsome young actor’s unexpected death, because wow, that’s crazy, and since Heath Ledger isn’t usually in the spotlight, maybe your friends didn’t hear about it as fast as you did.

And then you probably sat back and watched the rest of the world notice it, too. Maybe you got text messages about it. It probably showed up in your RSS feed reader multiple times. Maybe you went out to get coffee, and ran into a friend at Starbucks, and the first thing out of their mouth was, “Dude, did you hear Heath Ledger died?” Conversations you overheard on the street turned into games of speculation: Closet drug addict. Being famous is a huge amount of pressure. Did a woman break his heart?

I was shaken out of the stupor when a friend of mine stepped up and called bullshit:

Seems like everyone I’ve spoken with, since ~2 pm this afternoon, has felt compelled to mention – within a couple minutes of saying hello – that Heath Ledger is dead. Likewise for the blogsphere, Twitter tweets, SMS flurries, email one-liners, … etc. I don’t want to seem crass or unsympathetic, and I actually fear coming across as such… But… WTF? … Why this buzz around Ledger among the twentysomethings passing through my day? No one seemed to notice that the bizarre chess genius Bobby Fischer is dead, for instance…

NPR’s On the Media took a stab at the question on Sunday, from a press perspective. Noting that with the advent of social media, the rumor mills turn faster than the printing presses these days, the public demand for immediate information is fierce when its interest is piqued. The Associated Press recently started writing pre-emptive obituaries for notoriously self-destructive celebrities like Britney Spears and Amy Winehouse, just so they’d be prepared for the widespread information feeding frenzy if the news of sudden death ever broke.

But Heath Ledger? Heath Ledger wasn’t on their radar for an early death. Heath Ledger caught the press completely off-guard, and so the breaking news was handled by the masses.

And as one of the masses, I raise my glass. We’ll remember  you, Heath.

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42 Responses to “Why do we all know that Heath Ledger died?”

  1. Nelz Says:


    I understand the intellectual dissonance between Heath Ledger and Bobby Fischer.

    At one time, I was working in a hotel hosting a conference. I was pissed off that there were like 5+ Nobel Prize winning scientists, and I didn’t know any of them, but I could name off who Jennifer Lopez was dating at the time.

    What I realized is that for people in the “entertainment industry”, it is their job to make themselves known to me, whereas physicists’ jobs are to do science.

  2. Colin Says:

    Thought you might be interested in this scienceblogs article that discusses why the manner of his death matters. A lot of people are saying “it was an accident” and that to talk about it more than those vague terms is unkind or something.

    However, as the post I linked to above pontificates, there are several others out there messing around with the same hyponitic drugs in dangerous ways. Ledger’s death is a perfect vehicle to inform people about the dangerousness of using these pills recreationally.

    People are already obsessed with finding everything they can about it so your more likely to get people to read and absorb something more in depth than “drugs are bad.” Plus hell I know that if I was in the same situation, I would rather people learn from this rather than have it all be covered up.

  3. Eric Says:

    I had another reason to ignore the Celebrity News of the Week, as a death in the family trumped all interest over that of an actor none of us had actually met. Each time a twitter or blog post cropped up Oohing, Aahing, or ZOMGing over this among my twentysomething friends, I slipped into Ignore Celebrity mode.

    But that mode’s my usual default, anyway. ^_^

  4. sarah Says:

    Colin: REALLY interesting perspective. Thank you!

    Eric, I’m so sorry to hear about the loss in your family.

    I spent most of my life on Ignore Celebrity mode, and I’m still not exactly sure how Heath pushed through that.

  5. sarah Says:

    Nelz: “I was pissed off that there were like 5+ Nobel Prize winning scientists, and I didn’t know any of them”

    I have the same gripe with the tech industry sometimes… the people really doing amazing important things are often names i haven’t heard in conversations… the ones I *do* hear are the loud ones.

  6. fanshawe Says:

    People socializing online to the extent that we do these days (even without all the RSS feeds, Diggs and Facebooks) has made movies and television an even more common frame of reference than they were before. Pop culture has always been the easiest way to start a conversation. Now, it is the most convenient thing you can talk about without really considering the age, social group, and whereabouts of the person you’re talking to. I don’t really there is much more to it than that, really.

  7. ky Says:

    Fuck you people saying Heath’s death doesn’t matter. Bunch of HOMOPHOBES!

  8. sarah Says:


    Excuse me?

    I’m pretty sure I didn’t say his death didn’t matter… and I’d like to think that I’m very much not a homophobe.

    If I offended you, can you please tell me where and how?

  9. Gigi S. DePascale Says:

    I fell in love the first time I saw Heath in “A Knight’s Tale.” How gorgeous could one man have been? It was on television the week before he passed away (though I own the DVD and know every word), and I stopped and said, “Oh, God bless you. You literally have the world at your feet because of your talents and appearance. My husband, family, and friends noted something was wrong; when he was interviewed on talk shows, he’d appear so anxious that he actually sat on his hands. That seemed peculiar, as he was most self-confident in films. I’m so upset; many people don’t realize the potency and chance of addiction to prescription drugs and I appreciate the link, Colin. God bless you, Heath!

  10. Julie Says:

    His dead is a huge, huge loss. So much talent wasted. When I saw him as the Joker I was stunned… I haven’t seen such a terrific actor in ages!

    Because I live in Holland where news doesn’t spread fast, I heard he was dead, after I saw ‘the dark knight.’ I nearly cried, because I wanted to see more of him, and ‘brokeback mountain’ isn’t the way I want him to see after seeing him as ‘The Joker’

  11. Buffy Says:

    I have to admit I fell in love with him the first time I saw him in A Knight’s Tale as well. He had this ability to be able to make you smile. I also have to admit that when I heard he passed I cried everyday for a week. I am a functioning pill junkie myself. I have been on pain meds for 8 years. There are some days when I take 250mg of morphine, 100mgs of percet, 800mgs of soma, ambien, etc. I don’t take them because I want to I take them because I have to. I wake up every day in pain, I dont use them casually this is what I am prescribed. It scared the shit out of me when someone 5 years younger then myself passed taking close to the same meds I did. It was sad to see someone so beautiful pass.

  12. ashley Says:

    i loved heath so much i almost cried when i herd the news all his movies were sooo good i will miss him his smile his face and his ability to make us all smile i love heath and i will miss him in this world
    :( bye-bye

  13. Firdes Says:

    No comment on where he got the drugs, I know that Heath did not get it from the Olsen twins, no comment on where he got them from though.

  14. ETUELLA Says:

    It’s MAYBE just because women dream of a handsome CASANOVA rather than an only-intellegence one. That’s why we all care!besides, an actor is a man who is a genious, also- but for the ones who can get it!

    Yes i’ve been thinking of Heath’s death since the day it happened. that sleeplessness he had was exactly just the way i had before. i was about to get crazy because my mind never stopped. and i got really sick. i took pills, i went to therapies; i had to deal music- which needs to be deeply thought.

    to create a character is the same; you have to think; you have to brush your teeth, you have to eat your dinner with him all the time. you have to try to BE him. this is a REALLY HARD PSYCHOLOGICAL PROCESS. AND AGAIN I HAVE TO TELL THAT it NEEDS A GREAT BIG MIND; A GREAT BIG INTELLEGENCE. but could someone ask himself/herself ; he just couldn’t deal with this heavy process…

    tonight i watched an interview of him; just when i was zapping; he was putting one of his hand over his forehead while talking like he had a strong headache and lots of thoughts in his mind.
    it looked like it was hard to arrange the sentences to be meaningful. he just tried hard.

    we’re all human; and maybe death is something unfair for the ones that are behind. the chess champion and heath is the same; but this is something different. He is an actor. this is hollywood. you intellectuals, why you just cannot accept that these people are being made famous?! this is a sector. just one of them of yours.

    you do this polemic just to do it…

    if this is it, you have to accept it. you cannot change the 21st century’s bringings to our lives.
    if you think like this as you wrote ahead, so do not use the internet; just erase your website. or even don’t read the newspaper. because famous people have been in our lives for hundreds of years.

  15. libby Says:

    iloveyou i hope you are in heavans arms

  16. etuella Says:

    and i hope he’s waiting at the heaven’s door for my coming!

  17. Cara Says:

    I loved his role in The Dark Knight and I was crying during the movie about his death. He WILL be remembered. He looked a lot different in that movie and he was a great actor and a very handsome man. I actually fell in love with him during The Dark Knight.

  18. Emily Says:

    I’ve always been in love with him. his death was atagic disater. the joker is the best vilan thats ever existed and no one could play a better role than him. To me he still looked gorgeous in Dark Night.

  19. Betty Says:

    Why did the Olsen twit’s lawyers demand immunity for their client before she would talk about Heath’s death? What is she hiding, anyway?

  20. larsen Says:

    his role in DARK KNIGHT was so amazing that i didn’t believe the joker was represented by Heath until i had seen his name again. GREAT LOSS

  21. Lauren Says:

    I am writing a college admissions essay about Heath and I just went online to evoke some of my emotions about his life he lived and his untimely death when I stumbled upon this. It was as if I had written this! But anyways, this is really great and I’m glad that somebody has their head on straight. It is really appreciated.

  22. Kathy Says:

    Heath was a rare combination of being physically beautiful and mentally sensitive. He was the only actor who touched my heart by his acting. He makes us smile and cry and think. His smiles were gorgeous and genuine. He was unique and perfect. And amazing. No one could ever replace him. It’s our loss. Huge loss.

  23. Mariolina Says:

    Etuella, you really expressed how I have felt about Heath’s death. I saw the movie opening night and really had a hard time watching it because of the great job Heath did as the Joker. He was the most terrifying and twisted villain I have ever seen and probably ever will see. I had difficulty sleeping that night and was shaking after the movie. Whatever he did to get into that part very likely took hold of him in a powerful way. I wonder if he reached a point where he couldn’t stop the craziness in his head. He must have gotten so deep into the mindset of that twisted man (Joker) that his thinking patterns went crazy. Just some thoughts. What do I know? I know Christian Bail said professional actors don’t work that way and that outside of the part, they are completely separate from their character, but I’m not so sure. All Christian did was grunt, frown and grin. Probably wasn’t too hard for him to detach from his role. I was not there and do not know Heath, but I pray that his soul rest in peace. Amen.

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  26. Daithi Says:

    We live our lives from day to day, Our past remembered on the way. The future holds so much at bay, It’s not our choice who gets to stay. But when a life so young is taken , I hope that something is awaken. The truth is life is never fair, Our kids will always need our care.

  27. Martyna Says:

    ;( serce cz?owiekowi p?ka widz?c tak m?odego i przystojnego;> a przede wszystkim zdolnego i z du?ymi perspektywami aktora, który ju? nie ?yje… Bo?e..:((

  28. Martyna Says:

    ;( serce cz?owiekowi p?ka widz?c tak m?odego i przystojnego;> a przede wszystkim zdolnego i z du?ymi perspektywami aktora, który ju? nie ?yje… Bo?e..:((

  29. Johanne Says:

    I think that we all know about Heath’s dead, because it is så tragick.
    I live in Denmark and still i was totaly en chok over his deat…..
    I’w just found out this afternone while i was wathing the newest batmand “the dark knight” where Heath is playing “the Joker” (and i does that werry werry good i must say.)
    I have seen a lot of movies whit him, and im so sad because of his deat.
    And think about his famely and his litle daughter and wife..
    What so ever, Ill never forget you Heath :(<3.

  30. Carolina Says:

    no se en realidad como paso, un hombre con tanto talento, carisma, y lleno de vida, pudo haberse involucrado con ellas, ya saben con quienes,.
    solo espero que descanse en paz.´
    siempre lo recordare como un sir…..

  31. Lizzy Says:

    I like to remember him as Gabriel Martin, (2000) The Patriot. As for greatest villian ever? Sure. But Jason Isaacs might give him a run for his money one day, if he already hasn’t.

    P.S. Heath Ledger did not PLAY the Joker. He WAS the Joker.

    Rest in Peace Heath.

  32. m-j Says:

    you guys are so crazy about heath ledger I mean I liked him to but if you really love him then you need to start reading more about him because it said that heath ledger never liked the idea of girls always calling him hot and crud and he didn’t like the fact that he was voted a the most hottest teen of the year and that’s why he took a more serious movie like the patriot to get girls like you off his back nothing against you girls though he is hot and his movies rock to I mean exspecially a knights tale. I also wish he hadn’t died he is a real inspiration to girls and guys. He was good in all his movies. I looked at all the websites and everyone is saying that he died of drug overdose but what I’m thinking is that if he really died of drug overdose then why was he naked at the end of his bed when they found him I mean he really could have died from anything and also maybe there was something he wanted to die for if you girls have any more info. on him please write back I need help with this report. also I heard that he was dating for at a certain time that he was dating lindsy lohan wow. also that lindsy lohan was devestated when she found at that he died makes you wonder huh

  33. m-j Says:

    you guys rock for all the people who love heath ledger keep writing and I will keep looking always write good stuff about him though not just stuff like I love him and crap stuff that people will actually want to read.

  34. eduardo sousalima Says:

    fikei muito triste com sdua morte . ele se foi cedo .. agora ele deve estar brilhando em outro lugar … descansse em paz heath ledger ..

    eduardo sousa lima .



  35. Adriano Mello Says:

    Já completou um ano que Heath Ledger nos deixou cheio de saudades…principalmente do sucesso que fazia nas telas dos cinemas mundo a fora.
    Seu sorriso eternizará sua breve existência e acalentará a dor daqueles que o admirava como eu.

  36. aLeX CoNsTaS Says:

    im doing a biograph on heath ledger… he was the best…

  37. kymmie Says:

    Hi,I didn’t know you,actually,I came here by google when I was searching Heath’photo.We all love him.

  38. kymmie Says:

    oh,this is my first time to write something in English in a foreigner’s blog.I wish he was alive.

  39. someone Says:


  40. megan Says:

    i was so shocked when i heard he had died as i am his no. 1 fan . i was so upset. he was so young i just couldnt believe it. im sure he will always be remembered. well at least i will never forget him.:( :( :( :( :(

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