Hoffman Deserves Respect in Both Life and Death

By on February 12, 2014

Whenever a big-name celebrity passes away, every mainstream media outlet is saturated with details about the celebrity’s life and death. This is especially true when a celebrity dies young or in a tragic, unexpected manner.

The most recent example of this came over the first weekend of February when Academy Award-winning actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his apartment of an apparent heroin overdose. Reactions to the news were all over the board. There were, of course, friends and family who made public statements expressing their grief. Then there were Hoffman’s fans, who posted tributes and stories online about how much the actor’s performances inspired or impacted their lives. There were even people who just grieved the loss of a well-known, talented human being. The reactions weren’t all so heartfelt and positive, however.

Many people seemed to almost vilify Hoffman. They called him selfish for leaving his children fatherless, a junkie for dying with a needle in his arm and surrounded by bags of heroin, and a waste of life for putting his addiction over his family and career. Some even said that the actor deserved to die since he put himself at risk every time he injected his drug.

Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinions, but it isn’t fair to Hoffman’s family, friends and devoted fans for people to say that he deserved to die. No one deserves to die.

Many people expressed the same sorts of opinions last year when Glee star Cory Monteith died of a drug overdose. They claimed that if he hadn’t been a “teen idol” on a popular television show, his death would have been overlooked with the hundreds and thousands of other drug-related deaths that occur in this country each year.

While that is most likely true, television and movie stars get more exposure and impact more lives than the average person. That doesn’t mean movie stars have more worth than other people and it doesn’t mean their deaths are more important than others. Their deaths just get more exposure than the average citizen’s. Actors are still humans and should be treated as such, even after their deaths.

Another aspect of Hoffman and Monteith’s deaths that shocked many is that they were both so young when they died – 46 and 31 years of age respectfully. Not many people would expect that such talented actors would be alive one day and dead the next at such young ages. The shock factor is something that propels stories like these to the fronts of newspapers.

To say that Hoffman’s death doesn’t deserve grieving simply because he made mistakes in his life is unfair. It was irresponsible of him to use heroin, yes, but any addict will tell you that it is not easy to flip that switch off overnight. We don’t know what was going on in Hoffman’s mind or personal life during the weeks and days leading up to his death. He could have been working hard to conquer his addiction and just cracked and injected more heroin than he could handle – we don’t know what happened and, quite frankly, we never will.

Did he mean to leave his children fatherless? Probably not, but we won’t know the answer to that question either. Regardless, Hoffman was a father. He had a family, he had friends, and he was a human being – one who made some poor choices, but a human nonetheless. A talented human who lost a hard battle with addiction and died far too soon.

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