Yesterday afternoon, I read many reactions to the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. They ranged from expressions of loss and grief to attacks on the character and intelligence of anyone who dies of a drug overdose.
One comment said simply, “R.I.P. Another great goes too soon.” Another one said, “It’s not sad or tragic when someone dies from a drug overdose. it’s stupidity.” The first comment was respectful and suggested the death was tragic; the latter suggested it was a deserved punishment for ‘stupidity.’
I’m not even sure what my reaction was, other than surprise. I’ve only seen a few of the films in which Philip Seymour Hoffman starred and I did not know much about him, personally. I did not know until reading news of his death that he had struggled with addiction in his youth, nor that he had checked into a rehab program last year after relapsing into drug use. Both his early struggles with drugs and his relapse may have been big news, but I try not to pay attention to celebrity news; I have an almost pathological need to avoid getting on the “groupie train.”
Regardless of my distaste for celebrity worship, though, I know I did not feel anger or disdain for him. When I learned of his death, I did not judge him any less of a man because drugs took his life. But when I read the condemnations, the attacks on his intelligence, and the snarky comments about wealthy actors thinking they are beyond the reach of the negative effects of drugs, I felt anger at the people who posted those virulent attacks on a dead man.
Who can possibly know the darkness each of us may hide within us? Who can know the pain or the fear or the anger inside that might cause someone to escape with drugs or alcohol? That is not to say that I condone it, only that I think being judgmental overlooks the intricacies of reality.
I am sorry Philip Seymour Hoffman died; whether a drug overdose or natural causes, his death robbed us of a talented actor and it robbed his family and friends of someone they loved. It’s a heartless-son-of-a-bitch who can attack him for his mistakes and imply he had it coming. That attitude suggests, to me, the person who holds it needs to take a long, hard look inward and do a bit of self-assessment…and self-judging.