Marketing Heath Ledger’s Death

January 31st, 2009

January 22, 2008 marked the death of talented, rising actor Heath Ledger. He died of a drug overdose at the age of 28. At the time of his death, he appeared in nineteen films. He had finished portraying the Joker in the 2008 film, The Dark Knight just before his shocking death. He was also working on another movie project which is scheduled to be released this year.

After he died, marketers changed their form of advertising. For the movie The Dark Knight, no longer would you see advertisements with batman on the cover. It was primarily Heath Ledger, writing the famous phrase, “Why so serious?” in red. Even today, if you turn on the television, don’t be surprised to see one of his films. Many popular television channels like to play A Knight’s Tale. I would like to say that all of this is out of respect for Heath Ledger, but I’m afraid that it’s not entirely true. It’s all about the money. If you recall from our previous article, The Gravesite of James Dean, you will find more information than just about the ghostly appearances of deceased actor James Dean, who has become a legend over the years despite being in only three films. What do James Dean and Heath Ledger have in common? They both died in their 20s (James Dean at 24, Heath Ledger at 28) with shocking deaths upon mainstream success. They both had a lot of potential in them and had a bright future ahead of them.

The deaths of these actors are shocking to movie-viewers around the world. Once they passed away, marketers feel they have hit the jackpot. The news broadcasting alone had a major impact on their movie sales. Once Heath Ledger died, everyone started becoming a fan despite seeing any of his movies. The movie The Dark Knight had a gross revenue of $997,919,903, making it the second largest in history, right under Titanic. The previous Batman film, Batman Begins, only had a gross revenue of $372,253,017. Although it is not proven, we all know that his death had something to do with the spark in revenue. Everyone felt the need to see the movie the supporting actor “died for”.

This is the problem with Hollywood, actors are not treated like people, but as objects. Although it is not certain, I find it highly unlikely that he committed suicide by overdose. He left behind all his friends and family. I’m sure he is not grateful that his film has become such a success. All these awards and marketing techniques are just used as hype. Many are profiting off of his death and every dollar should be going to the family he has left behind.

Three hours after writing this article, I turn on the television to find A Knight’s Tale on.

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