In a bout of morbid star-struck curiosity, I have been following the hourly updates on Heath Ledger's death two days ago. In this age of participative, social media, the flood of information and video images on the internet creates a compelling narrative. Small bits of information are tossed about - was the rolled-up banknote found in the flat smeared with drugs? A few hours later the answer comes: no).
Parallels to James Dean and Rover Phoenix were inevitable, but something about the overexposure and forensic imagery leaked to the media - such as the body bag being trolleyed out of the SoHo loft as hundreds of cameras took pictures - threaten the mythic longevity of a forming star like Ledger. Whereas in the past such images were produced and filed away by the police, now it's the general public, in its eagerness to take part in the theatre of fame, that generates and propagates them. The unfortunate and inevitable consequence of media overload is ephemeralness.
Still, death never fails in its canonical powers. Alongside the tabloid frenzy, more 'serious' publications quickly drafted in their writers to pay homage to the 'brooding' actor, often including warnings about the callouness of modern celebrity. Here's a pick of what's been published already:
Health Ledger, vulnerable male (Los Angeles Times)
We only had a glimpse of what might have been...(Independent)
Heath Ledger and Hollywood's fallen stars (Telegraph)