hero ick, icon ick

The following email, entitled “hero ick, icon ick” came through from my friend Anne today:

hows this. not a word for months and then a deluge. no, but it’s interesting, this next blog you’ll be doing. half an hour ago i was googling heath ledger who’s apparently just overdosed in his manhattan digs. can’t say i’ve ever paid much attention to the bloke, but i enjoyed ‘brokeback mountain’ and ‘i’m not there’. anyways, seems there are a lot of fanclub sites out there for heath, as well. and no doubt for a lot of other stars, alive and dead (another one that comes to mind, coz i’ve just seen the fillem ‘control’ is ian curtis of joy division).

so i was just having a little lie down after getting your email and thought about how we are surely the only species that does this – elevates certain individuals to such lofty heights. i mean, this is definitely not in the order of something as pragmatic as queen ant-ism. we just love mythical figures. or need them, more like. i wonder if it’s a religious urge. icon-ism. especially since pictures and other forms of representation figure so much in the process of elevation and mythologising. bio’s too of course. and when it’s singers, it’s their music and their lyrics combined with their personal narratives. so i dunno. maybe i’m on the wrong track here. maybe it’s about poetry and poets and philosophers, in a new package for popular culture. what do you think it’s about lucas? hmmm … i guess you’ll find out, maybe, by doing this blog. wish i could drive across the desert with you.

Hearing the news, I too had a moment of sadness for poor Heath. He was 28. Bon was young too, only 33 when he died. (They also both grew up in Western Australia.) I guess as the breaking news came through about Heath’s death, it made me realise, to a very small degree, what it might have been like for an AC/DC fan to hear the news of Bon’s death, back in Feburary 1980. A sense of lost potential. The idea that he was only just beginning to hit his stride. That his best work was still in front of him. And so on.

Like Anne, I have been wondering about the transformation of a single human into a “cultural icon” – and the similarity of this phenomenon to religion. If someone is dead, we can make him into whoever we want. And no matter how unheroic the circumstances of Bon’s death (“death by misadventure due to acute alcohol poisoning” or something like that) there is a sense in which he is a kind of “martyr”.