Why do we make excuses for the dead? There’s an odd phenomenon that occurs upon a notable figure’s death. All of their sins are swept under the rug and rarely spoken of, even if during their life those same sins were the defining moments of that individual’s life. When Ronald Reagan was alive, he was viewed as a joke. An ancient, Alzheimer’s-ridden, arms-dealing puppet with a nutter of a First Lady who spent all of her money on psychics. He gets some compassion points for surviving assassination, sure, but he also thrust the country into a recession with the Savings & Loan crisis and gave rise to the Taliban in Afghanistan. In spite of all of this, the moment he died he was granted an emboldened legacy as “The Great Communicator”, and ever since he’s been held up as an economic genius and one of the last “great leaders” in the United States, by people that like to talk too much about such things. In popular culture, a similar effect can occur. Heath Ledger was seen by many moviegoers as “just another pretty face” until his life ended, thus caramelizing his entire career over the flame of tragic loss. Over time, it’s revealed that he’s something of a method actor who carefully chose and prepared for his roles. I swear, while he was alive, I had difficulty differentiating between him and Orlando Bloom at first glance. We’ve lost many of our favorites over the last few years, including superstar icons like Wes Craven and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, to childhood favorites like Robin Williams and Leonard Nimoy, and of course too-young-to-die celebrities like Paul Walker and Brittany Murphy.
I’m not contending that we should continue to criticize someone after they’ve departed. What I’m actually saying is that we need to do a better job of celebrating those that we admire while they’re still alive. Not in a demeaning, fanboy, "remember-when-you-mattered" sort of way, but by authentically expressing our feelings for someone’s work, and doing it while they’re still around to hear it. Actors, writers, and directors are still human beings, after all, and like the rest of us they'll live (on average) to be 78 years old. As audiences, we sometimes suffer a sort of fatigue over someone whose popularity has seemingly outlasted their talent. Quentin Tarantino gets that argument levied against him quite often, but if Tarantino were gone tomorrow; you’d surely miss his films. Sometimes, an artist has helped define our youth so distinctly that when they grow out of their own immaturity we resent them for changing. Kevin Smith still has his fanatics, but he’s not receiving credit for the fact that each of his films is more well-crafted than the last. Instead, anonymous netizens smear him with insults and roast his work like they need it for warmth. Once in a while, our own snap judgments expose our ignorance, as when Heath Ledger was cast as the joker and many fans on the internet reacted with comments like, “mojocat says: probably the worst casting of all time. good job guys, shoulda cast Crispin Glover as he was, you know, born to play the part”; “e-unit says: fuck his gay brokeback ass. bring jack back he culd lose a few pounds but still hes not a gay f******.”; and countless others.
There’s a name for people who only love the dead: necrophiliacs. Don’t be a necrophiliac. This website has not been formed to be yet another method of insulting actors, nit-picking directors, or exposing “bad movies”. It’s been formed as a means to celebrate the movies we love, and the people that create them for our amusement. Honestly, one of my pet projects was to popularize the many films of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, because I’ve always found him an awesome presence and someone that deserved more fame and attention. In his case, I’ve come too late. Luckily, there are hundreds of other fantastic entertainers in film that deserve recognition. Some are still up-and-coming, some are seen as “has-beens”, and some are already celebrated for their greatness at award shows the world over. I will ignore the success or popularity someone has already achieved, just as I will ignore the popular criticisms that someone is currently receiving. If an entertainer does great work, I will make it a point to not wait until they’ve died to eulogize them. At that point, we’re only speaking to each other. I’d much rather do what Dan Le Batard recommends, and recognize someone’s legacy while they’re still around to appreciate it. That’s why every week, on Twitter, we’ll be celebrating one person at a time to spread the joy that they’ve already given us with their work. Here is to the living eulogy, something that we all should have started doing a long time ago. Let's let the dead rest in peace and celebrate the living!
What do you love more?
Week 1: First up, we start with Roddy Piper’s co-star from They Live, oneMr. Keith David.
Week 2: We Celebrated the life and times of the man without a nationality, Peter Stormare!