I spent all of Super Bowl Sunday pretending that Philip Seymour Hoffman was still alive, because I didn’t want to force myself to enjoy a day of revelry in the light of one of the greatest tragedies of the artistic world, but I didn’t want to waste a day of revelry.
The same principle applied after reading the open letter that very same morning from Mia Farrow’s daughter accusing Woody Allen of molesting her as a child. It was literally too horrifying for me to deal with so I opted out of dealing with it. (Thoughts on that later.)
So I went right ahead and I enjoyed the Super Bowl, well aware the whole time that I was, in a sense, cheating death – the death of my enjoyment of an over-hyped sporting event with somewhat high standards for the enjoyment of the game itself and the impossibly high standards for those miniature moments of cinematic marketing brilliance. Who will be the crowd favorite? Who will be crowned King of the Super Bowl Ads? How many ways can the Seahawks embarrass Peyton Manning? How long is the Chrysler commercial? How much did Esurance pay for their moment in the sun? I wonder what Philip Seymour Hoffman is having for dinner tonight. What was the point of the Jaguar commercial? I missed it, I was busy tweeting about the previous commercial.
And the next day I went to work in the morning, came home at night, struggled in vain to get my daughter to sleep in her own bed, and passed out with her in my bed, not having brushed my own teeth. Still no time to process the news.
But over the last few days I have, in fact, been reading – surprisingly ravenously, I might add – all the wonderful eulogies and nice things people are writing about Philip Seymour Hoffman. I cannot express a single thing that has not already been said in this short span of time.
But I will post the one original thought I had. The sad, beautiful irony of him dying of a heroine overdose is that it makes us reflect on his body of work, which, as a whole, really compels us to confront our demons (which is exactly what dying of a heroine overdose is NOT doing). He didn’t necessarily portray heroes who boldly confronted their demons and lived happily ever after; on the contrary, the characters he played were often so immensely flawed that they were incapable of dealing with problems head on, but he played them so well that we couldn’t help looking inside ourselves and doing something. He compelled us to confront our demons. And I guess in a way, now his life compels us to confront our demons as well.
For me, one demon I’ll work on confronting is my confused grief over one of my favorite actors, who died alone in the middle of New York City, in the middle of eight and a half million people crammed into just three hundred square miles.
The easy way out of this grief is to remember that I didn’t know him personally. I only know him through his filmography. And because of that, he is immortal. And because his work is now finished, his filmography contained in a definable time period, the future of his career no longer uncertain, we may now deify him.
And once again, I cheat death.