I was tooling around the internet this afternoon when news broke that one of my favorite actors, Philip Seymour Hoffman, had passed away. Initial reaction was that of shock and dismay (which mirrored my own emotions) but quickly I started to see others mention his passing with a mix of disdain and judgement for a variety of reasons. The majority of the negative reactions were linked to reports indicated his death was due to a heroin overdose; others were tied to the fact that he is one out of many that will die today and he is no less important than any other human on the planet. It made me stop and think about the nature of celebrity and how the death of someone famous impacts others.
When my father died, it was an Event in my life. It’s the most impactful loss I’ve ever had. I remember sitting in the church as his services were about to begin and feeling the seeds of anger that more people weren’t there. My father meant the world to me, and even though he was gone I felt the recognition of his passing was an important recognition of respect for the man. These emotions were short-lived, and I knew that just because people didn’t make the 60 mile trip to Pawhuska for his funeral didn’t mean they didn’t care. I also knew that the impact my father had on my life was unique to me, even compared to my brother, and transposing that impact to others was not fair.
The reason I was sad when I saw Hoffman died came from of a different place, naturally. I mourned the loss of a man that had brought entertainment and thoughtful reflection into my life. The best compliment an actor in any medium can get is that they made you FEEL something, and PSH was very good at his craft. In fact, my girlfriend couldn’t stand him because of how creepy he was in ‘Doubt’ where he played an abusive priest. I don’t feel sad because I’ve lost a friend or a family member; I am selfishly sad because I have lost any future opportunities for this man’s work to make me feel and to make me think. Although I never met the man personally, he still had an impact on my life. I feel sorry for his family and friends, as 46 years old is too early to lose anyone. Drug addiction is a terrible battle, and one so many people lose.
I don’t understand the people that shout ‘Good Riddance’ or say someone shouldn’t be grieved because their death was something within their control. People make decisions every day that affect the course of their life. When those decisions result in an irreversible outcome, especially when that outcome is only self-inflicted, it’s something other people should use as a learning experience rather than an opportunity to stand on a soap box. It’s sad when anyone dies, because that person meant something to someone else. Do not write off the death of a celebrity because they meant nothing to you.