apropos of nothing

Heath Ledger: America’s List Makers Respond

Photos: Getty Images

In times of incomprehensible tragedy, to whom do Americans turn in order to make sense of it all? Who can we trust to put a senseless death in context? America’s list makers, that’s who. In the aftermath of Heath Ledger’s death, several publications have put together lists that range from thoughtful to slapdash to kind of tacky.

The AP kicked things off Tuesday night with a perfunctory list, devoid of context, of 10 Actors Who Died in Their 20s, “like Heath Ledger.” Hey, did you know that Sharon Tate and Brad Renfro both died in their 20s? It’s true. (The Observer’s arts-and-culture blog later reprinted the list, without additional commentary.)

On Wednesday, the Website eDrugSearch.com posted on its blog an illuminating list of “12 accidental celebrity deaths — and the prescription drugs that caused them.” “Heath Ledger could be the latest star to have died from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs,” the blogger writes, throwing caution to the wind, before presenting head shots of Marilyn Monroe, Dana Plato, and Milli Vanilli’s Rob Pilaturs next to lovingly photographed shots of the Nembutal, Vanadom, and methadone that killed them. It’s celebrity pill porn!

Now this morning, we have the L.A. Times presenting a well-researched list of other movies whose fates were changed by the deaths of their stars, either mid-filming or during postproduction. We don’t think we ever knew that somewhere out there is the lost movie River Phoenix was shooting at the time of his death. That’s pretty interesting.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the coin, Associated Content writer Don Simkovich provides an un-numbered, but still hoary, list of things “We Can Learn From Heath Ledger’s Death.” Some of the included gems: “Pop Stars Are Fleeting”; “Grasp Joy”; and, of course, “Death Is Inescapable.” We have a winner!

Though we know we’re guilty of knocking out the occasional list, we do think that perhaps the urge to put things in 1-10 order should be resisted in the immediate aftermath of death. Sure, lists get people — like us — to read your site. Sure, they get people — like us — to link to your site. Ah, the hell with it, we’re just waiting for someone to throw together “10 Actors Whose Careers Would’ve Benefited If They’d Died at 28*.” We know we’d read it.

Actors Who Died in Their 20s [AP]
12 accidental celebrity deaths — and the prescription drugs that caused them [eDrugDearch Blog]
Posthumous productions [LAT]
What We Can Learn from Heath Ledger’s Death [Associated Content]

*No. 2: Orson Welles

Heath Ledger: America’s List Makers Respond