Heath Ledger Survey

I was puzzled by the range of reactions I heard from those around me yesterday to the death of actor Heath Ledger. So I’m conducting a survey. When you heard the news that Heath Ledger died, was your reaction:

  1. Who’s Heath Ledger?
  2. Wasn’t he that guy in that movie about those guys?
  3. OMG!
  4. Other (please explain)

Include your age in your answer. My hypothesis is that this is generational. A 20-something coworker’s instant response was “1”. Another 40-something coworker actually got a call from his college freshman daughter, who lives in another state, telling him the news.

For the record, my answer was “1”, and I’m 48.


  1. Aged 37, my reactionI was 3 or 4 — I don’t follow showbiz news very much, so I went from “wow” to “I wonder if he was living a screwed up life” to being annoyed at myself for jumping to stereotypes.

    I question your survey methodology, though. Firstly, there’s another axis (being Australian, I’d seen Heath Ledger in movies like Two Hands before he was known in Hollywood). Secondly, there are a lot of actors I know by sight from movies I like them in where I couldn’t necessarily tell you their names. So there might well be people who recognise, say, that guy from 10 Things About You without knowing what his name is.

  2. The first news I saw was on the Huffington Post which had misspelled his name. So my first reaction was actually, “Who’s Keith Ledger?” I’m 38 but I don’t think it matters in this situation.

  3. My reaction? 4 “Huh”. Age:19.

    The people my age on the internets that I frequent, and the people I overhear in the halls (predominantly female), and the 14 year old girl I tutor were all terribly upset, especially because now they can no longer watch “10 things I hate about you”. Yeah.

  4. Count me another 1 (39yo), even though we watched Brokeback Mountain not that long ago. Actually I was a “Who’s Keith Hedger” after hearing the news on the radio, but the real name is no different.

    I was actually surprised how I’d never heard of him, as we watch quite a few films and certainly know the really famous names. Was he actually famous for anything?

  5. My reaction was: “Suzanne Pleshette, Heath Ledger, … who’s next?” (this is based on the theory that celebrity deaths always come in threes).

  6. I’m 28, my initial reaction was 4, “I have to tell my fiancee” because if Heath Ledger and I were all drowning in a boat and she could only save one of us, I’m pretty sure she’d save me, but it’d be a very tough decision for her.

  7. 4.

    I had a cousin die on the same day, and thought, “why would I care about Heath Ledger?”

    Maybe I was being callous, but I never met the man.

  8. 4. “Hmm. I hope they finished filming ‘Dark Knight'”

    I’m 37.

    BTW, the answer to the question is “Yes, they had”. And it turns out that a flick by Terry Gilliam (“The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”) might be in more serious trouble.

  9. My reaction falls in the 4) category, as in — what a shame. I’m 49.

    “Brokeback Mountain” was the best love story of the century to date, one of the best movies of recent years, and it was built on Ledger’s performance, which will — in the way of movies — live forever. I feel strangely hurt by James’ inability to remember Ledger, for no good reason I suppose, but nonetheless in response to his question — anyone who is ever nominated for an Academy Award, as Ledger was, is hugely famous. Being a movie star helps too. Ledger was (and is) far more famous than all of us on this board put together. Deal with it.

  10. Let’s just say I’m somewhat older than John. I’m not going to divulge my age, because I believe that there are people gleaning information about me from the internet and assiduously piecing it together in order to steal my identity. I’ve put a lot of time and effort into this identity, and I’m not going to ffrivolous comment to a blog entry.

    Being a complex person, my reaction was a combination of all four responses–in that exact order I should add (the four stages of lesser-known-celebrity grief?) I must admit that my OMG! was quite muted, more like omg without the exclamation point.

    My No. 4 response was something like, “It is sad to hear of a young person dying, but why is this one considered so much more important than the thousands killed in, say, Iraq?”

  11. My garbled last sentence in the first graf should have ended “frivolously throw it away on some comment to a blog entry.”

    Just for the historical record.

  12. Oh, *that* movie about *those* guys.

    It took me a while to figure out what you meant. Never saw it.

    I remember him from some movie that had a lot of jousting in it. He was quite good. Pity he died…

  13. 1 or 4. 44.

    I thought he might be an actor, because the media has to focus on something to take our minds off of important things.



  14. 45 year-old male. Reaction: “Other”—I couldn’t help but wonder whether Britney Spears were somehow mixed up in all of this.

    Ho, ho! You old people really need to keep abreast of Popular Culture.

  15. Clinging desperately to the last year of my 20s…

    Mine would be (3). Actually, I think the first thing I said was “Really?!” followed closely with “How’d he die?” To be honest, I had no idea who he was before Brokeback Mountain. I’m sure he’s been in other movies I’ve seen, but I’m not a big celebrity buff. Maybe that qualifies me for answer (2), but only with the caveat that “that movie about those guys” should not be interpreted as “OMG queers”. Brokeback mountain is perhaps the greatest tragic love story I’ve ever seen, in no small part due to Heath Ledger’s performance.

  16. 43 w/ a response a 20y.o. would reduce to #3 (but I can’t appreciate the SMT culture.) So put me down for #4: “Oh sad. Here was a real actor of note gone too early. With so many inescapable spotlight-whoring ‘personalities’ with rehab dramas and no discernable talent: Why him?”

  17. i will miss him soo much he was 1 of my favorite actors i was in luv wit him even though i nvr knew him he had a great smile n a cute acent

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