Report from March 6, 2015: Harrison Ford died following a tragic crash in his vintage Ryan Aeronautical ST3KR yesterday. He was 72 years old.
The plane’s engine unexpectedly lost power after taking off from Santa Monica Municipal Airport, which prompted the need for an emergency landing at a nearby golf course. The plane hit a tree on the way down, despite Ford’s best efforts. The actor received his pilot’s license in 2009.
Known to many as the man who played Han Solo and Indiana Jones, he was a prime example of following your dreams and pushing the envelope without (ironically) becoming a cliché. He was the actor who grabbed our attention at an age when most in Hollywood are grasping for a little career security after their teen idol stage has slipped beyond their reach, leaving them running out of fuel, grit and good looks. Not only did Ford maintain these attributes, but he reveled in playing the antihero, the atypical protagonist. He was never going to be the next Superman, but he remains everyone’s favorite archeologist with a snake phobia and a whip.
Now, all too soon, it has come time to say goodbye.
The Twitterverse has exploded with such sentiments. “The world has lost a great actor and a great man,” tweeted one late night talk show host (you may know who). Thoughts from friends, family members, coworkers and strangers have been pouring in, tweeting, “Harrison Ford, you will be missed!” and “There will never be another. Thoughts are with his family.” Still others referenced his Star Wars identity, saying only, “Never tell me the odds! We never had to. You beat them.”
Ford leaves his wife, actress Calista Flockhart, and his children behind.
Of course, all of the above is nonsense. Mr. Ford is alive and recovering well, according to every source available, and no one tweeted any false accounts of his death. PEOPLE magazine even released information stating he would likely be released from the hospital by this weekend, and doctors say there does not appear to be any nerve damage. However, the death of celebrities bring up many interesting facts about the very issue of “celebrity” itself, not to mention death and the way in which our culture deals with one of our most common shared experiences.
I was talking with a friend the other day about this, and we both agreed that there was something more than just “an excuse to talk about death” (which we generally avoid discussing) at work here. Celebrities become projections of ourselves. We relate because we need to relate, or we invent traits and kinships that do not exist in order to supplant our own inadequacies, doubts, fears or even as a relief for boredom in the horrendously mundane ordinariness of our lives.
I admit that I cried a little when Robin Williams died, whereas I’ve been to funerals for people I knew personally and not shed a tear. When Leonard Nimoy passed, the whole world seemed to be tweeting and sharing “tributes” (including me), which mainly served to bring attention to their own thoughts on the man and his work than his actual personhood and life. Despite the time that’s passed, people still lament the deaths of Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Philip Seymour Hoffman and others who were talented — yes — but mainly just … famous. We didn’t know them, and they certainly didn’t know us. And yet we carry on as if a member of our family was cut off from the land of the living. The search for significance via association can apparently motivate an emotional state akin to actual grief.
If Harrison Ford had died in the plane crash on March 5th, the reality is that his family and friends would truly be in mourning for him, whereas his fans would be mourning the death of his characters, his legacy or their own identity which they had partially fused with his in a warped and imposed form of psychological admiration. With that said, maybe it’s good to stop and take a look at how the world would be different if we paid this much attention to our own lives and our real friends and family. I don’t know. Maybe you already do that, and maybe there’s no need for comparison. Maybe I should stop this digression and end on a lighter note, like the fact that most of my guy friends were temporarily considering calling in sick to work if Han Solo died in an aircraft accident. Well, he didn’t, because he’s Harrison [expletive] Ford, so breathe a sigh of relief and laugh it up, fuzzballs!
Megan Wallin is a young writer with a background in the social sciences and an interest in seeking the extraordinary in the mundane. A Seattle native, she finds complaining about the constant drizzle and overabundance of Starbucks coffee therapeutic. With varied work experiences as a residential counselor, preprimary educator, musician, writing tutor and college newspaper reporter/editor, Megan is thrilled to offer a unique perspective through writing, research and open dialogue.