Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Heath Ledger as Ennis Del Mar

Mr. Ledger's death is shocking due to his young age (28) and the mysterious and presumably accidental nature, plus leaving a two-year old daughter without a father. But his death is more than just shocking, I'm also finding it to be deeply affecting in ways that other deaths are not.

I was moved to tears by Heath's performance as Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain. One set of reasons has to do with his justly praised performance, his physical beauty, and also the personal resonance for me of a gay man struggling (and in Ennis Del Mar's case failing) to love oneself in a culture that sends messages that who you are is disgusting and wrong.

But on an even deeper level Ennis Del Mar's story is not just a story of internalized homophobia, but of the way that all of us block our own happiness by the internal stories we tell and retell. Learned from the culture around us, or invented by the false interpretations we add to actually benign experiences, the stories we tell ourselves of who we can't be, what we can't do, what we don't deserve and aren't worthy of, destroy lives as tragically and permanently as any act of violence. The tragedy of Brokeback Mountain is the tragedy of any one of us who let the fiction of imagined cultural consequences keep us from living our full lives.

And of course, the tragedy of a young death, such as Heath Ledger's, is also, precisely the tragedy of a life not fully led; the actor's life now brought into tragic concurrence with his most famous character.

1 comment:

laura said...

Rev. Ricky -

Your words are such a salve. I will miss Heath Ledger's potential and his presence. He was willing and so very able to stand for that which our culture marginalizes, and to do it in a beautiful, deep and lovely way.

Yet it *is* true - we *do* let the "fiction of imagined cultural consequences keep us from living our full lives." I admit to living in fear of those whispered words, those slights, those looks... those things that I perceive as lessening my life when I could stand up to them better. Enis struggled and failed... but from that lesson we can grow - *I* can grow. I just need to stop playing those stories over and over again in my head - those ones that keep me from sleep.

So yes, I will miss Mr. Ledger - perhaps not in the same way as you do, but for many of the same reasons. He was worthy of so much more... as we all are.

Go. Snuggle with your husband. Celebrate the love you have. Mourn the passing of a bright light who did so much by his presence.

And, if I may be so bold, :::hugs:::