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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

WTF? Natasha Richardson 1963-2009

How do you go from talking and joking to brain dead? How do you go from healthy and vital to… not? You’re 45 years old and you slip in some snow and you’re dead? WTF?

I mean, what kind of universe do we live in where this can happen?

I understand the medical stuff, the science. In my head, I get it. I just don’t… get it.


UPDATE 10:50am Thursday: I’m completely stunned that some people in comments below have interpreted my comments above as somehow disparaging to Richardson or her family. To those people, I say: WTF? Is that how disgustingly low coverage of celebrities has fallen, that your first assumption when someone expresses shock at the sudden death of someone young and healthy is that that is somehow snide, sarcastic, or meant to be taken as a joke?

One of the reasons I don’t cover celebrity gossip here is that it’s just so disgusting, not only how most of the media covers it but how many fans feel like they’re entitled to know everything about everybody, and how many fans feel like it’s okay to treat public figures as public property, and the appropriate target of anything and everything they want to throw at those public figures. But I’ve never done that here, and I never will.



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  • cameron

    What a terrible thing to say. You are obviously not a doctor, and neither am I, but to say “Wtf?” without knowing a cause of death is insensitive and unprofessional. It is a shocking death, but we don’t know the details yet. So instead of saying “Wtf? I don’t get it”, you should be wishing the family well. Maybe she didn’t just “slip in some snow”.

  • Carol

    Well now. Who is really the insensitive one. Voicing one’s inability for their heart to accept what their head tells them is a form of condolence. Why is it wrong to speak the language of raw emotion. It’s not a slam against the doctors or anyone. It is looking one’s own mortality straight in the face. In the blink of an eye, the benign turns into disaster. WTF?

  • Heather

    No, I understand that sentiment. I don’t think it was directed at Natasha, but at the …universe, in general. We have lost a beautiful presence, and there is anger and frustration at why it had to happen, and what in the hell happens so fast, that we are ripped from someone, like that! It’s infuriating, and upsetting and …….a reflection of the feeling that…..we just want her back.

  • Lulu

    Thats an inapropriate thing to say and inapropriate headline. Its an imature thing to say. Anyway, The brain is so fragile that a simple injury can be devistating but in her case it took a while for a result to happen but she made the mistake of not going to the doctor idmediately. You should learn more about the brain since its the most important part of the body. Yeah she sliped and fell in snow but she could have had some sort of problem in her brain prior to the accident such as an anurysm.

  • Amazed

    You are all such idiots I can only wonder why it had to be Natasha. Why couldn’t it have been one of you people instead? If you really want to honor the death of someone it should be done so privately and in silence. NOT in the most narcissistic manner possible in public on the internet. All of your sentiments are fake and thoughtless.

  • I can understand your anger, Maryann.
    It leaves me speechless too …
    I couldn’t believe it, poor Liam and Vanessa and Joely and Miranda … and poor Natasha, my God I am as old as she was !!!
    I’m still speechless, I really don’t know what to say.

    When something like this happen, I couldn’t help but thinking to that song, Blasphemous Rumours of Depeche Mode, and that sometimes really “god got a sick sens of humour”.

    In a very personal way I’m a believer, and I think that He, if really is there somewhere, is merely an observer.

  • Jan Willem

    It’s a sad event and my sympathies go out to the bereaved family and friends and – by extension – mournful film and theatre lovers. However, freak accidents will happen and life is a lot more fragile than you’d think. In our secularized societies we tend to suppress the awareness that we’re all mortal, and it pops up with a vengeance every now and then. (Insert sermon about achieving the right balance between mind and body, thought and feeling.)

  • Keith

    Maryann, I sympathize. Such a tragic death is so mind-numbing it’s hard to process. I see nothing wrong with such an emotional response. It was true and heartfelt.

    For those of you that are flaming Maryann, have a little sympathy yourselves. Several people didn’t seem to read past the her headline. She understands what happened at an intellectual level (that it was a subdural or epidural hematoma, that is bleeding below or above the tissue layer surrounding the brain, either of which can be fatal depending on where it occurs), but doesn’t “get it” at a deeper emotional level where it usually takes time to process. Getting hung up over the surface words (or in this case implied words) shows a lack of maturity. The news articles state she did see a doctor directly, but the problem with this sort of injury comes from the swelling AFTER the impact. She seemed asymptomatic for about a hour after the accident. By the time the doctors realized what was happening, sadly, it was too late.

    What is wrong with expressing our sympathies on-line, especially for a deceased actress on a movie site? Anyone here not a fan of the 1st Amendment? Amazed, wishing such a fate on someone, especially for expressing their own concern and emotional outrage at a senseless tragedy, that’s just plain evil.

    Liam Neeson, their two sons and the rest of their family have my prayers and deepest sympathies. Farewell Natasha, may you rest in peace.

  • Professor Poppycock

    Sounds to me like you’re in DIRE need of some psychotherapy honey

  • Silke

    Since I had more or less the same thing happening to a friend of mine ten years ago – she slipped on a step getting off the bus and hit her head – I can totally empathize with everyone’s shocked surprise. I was with her when it happened; she was fine afterwards, the headaches started the next day, her parents told me later on. I went by her house a few days later to find out she’d died. My heart goes out to Natasha, who had so much life still ahead of her, and to her family, Liam and the two boys.

  • MaryAnn – my sentiments exactly. This is not supposed to happen.

  • MaryAnn

    I’m stunned that anyone could think I was somehow disparaging Richardson or her family, or that there’s something immature in being shocked by this news. *Of course* my “WTF” was directed at the universe in general. And how the fuck does “WTF” express anything other than shock?

  • Ooops, Miranda Richardson it’s not part of the Redgrave family !!! What a moron I am sometimes ^_^

  • Jan Willem

    I think it’s a matter of decorum. No matter how shocked you are, the F word is simply not done as the title of an entry on such a subject. Call me old-fashioned.
    (The universe, I’m sorry to say, is probably indifferent.)

  • bats :[

    My husband and I echo your sympathies to the Richardson/Redgrave/Neeson clans, and also had the same reaction as you did. Railing at the universe is not a slam against an individual. I’ve known people younger, as healthy, yada yada, who’ve died as seemingly unreasonably and unfairly as Natasha Richardson.

  • Christie

    Maryanne, I feel exactly the same way; thank you for wording it just how my gut responded to the news. It’s like a punch to the belly or the throat.

    Also, Jan, I have to say Fuck decorum. I’m not trying to be a jerk; I just get tired of hearing the same inanities when someone dies that it makes me feel ill. I want to hear people’s real, gut responses, not tired pleasantries. I understand that sometimes pleasantries get some people through terrible crises, but to me it’s a form of denial. And that’s fine. If there’s anything I’ve learned about death it’s that every person has a different way of dealing with it, and while you may not approve, that’s just how it is. I’ve seen a bit of death over the past five years, and seen people react in weird, strange ways, and believe me, someone saying “WTF?” is pretty mild. Also, I guess your reaction is another kind of grieving, but I just wanted to point out that yours is not the only way. I think actually expressing actual emotion is more befitting this tragedy.

  • Christie

    Sorry to Jan; that was probably over the top. :(

  • I can’t believe some of the idiotic responses here. No one reads for comprehension anymore.

    I agree with MaryAnn – this is a total WTF. A friend of mine recently lost his long-time partner to a similar set of circumstances; what looked like a minor head injury – even to multiple CT scans – turned out to be fatal. All I can take away from these incidents is that the brain is a strange and delicate thing.

  • Jan Willem

    @Christie: It was a bit OTT, yeah. I wholeheartedly concur that each should mourn in his or her own way, even if others think it’s a little stuffy. Still I don’t think gut reactions are necessarily “better” than clichés, which provide much-needed help for more restrained and less creative mourners, who you shouldn’t look down upon. And anyway denial is a classic phase of the mourning process.
    But seriously: “pleasantries”? I assume you mean platitudes.

  • Christie

    Jan, Yes, the implication was over-the-top, which was why I apologized:

    “Still I don’t think gut reactions are necessarily “better” than clichés, …”

    It was silly of me to imply that one way is superior to the other. I just don’t think people should should be thought of as being gauche or vulgar for expressing a gut reaction to a tragedy.

    And yes, thanks. Platitudes.

  • The headline startled me, but when I read your post, I did get your point. Appropriate? Heck, it’s your blog…

    This story has hit me rather more strongly than I expected. My husband suffered a concussion last fall, and was told he would be considered “out of the woods” in six months. That was four and a half months ago, so presumably we can breathe easier in six weeks’ time. He has also been told that he really can’t afford to have a similar injury again. His hospital room-mate was a young man who had been beaten up at a Hallowe’en party. He had obviously lost his short-term memory, but was walking around and able to converse. A week later, he was dead. Maybe we should just all walk around in helmets.

  • JasonJ

    My brother in law died this way back in 2000. He had the flu or something that made him light headed and had fallen and hit his head on the dresser. He was dead within 24 hours from a brain bleed, and he had been taken to the hospital immediately after the fall. The entire left hemisphere of his brain was full of blood by the time the X-ray was taken. We sat and watched him die, it took almost three years for my sister to come to terms with it so I understand what MaryAnn is asking.

  • Kenny

    WTF?

    I can’t believe she’s dead.. that’s nuts. It’s not like she was a hardcore skiier duking off-piste between the trees.

    She was having LESSONS… for any skiiers here, you know how sedate the pace is for your average ski schooler.

    I’m shocked… and I am buying myself a helmet before I head off to the slopes this Easter.

    Also WTF for missing the point, you muppets.

  • Keith

    Just saw the reported autopsy results over on IMDB which listed her death as “epidural hematoma due to blunt impact to the head.” I mentioned this earlier, but didn’t elaborate on it. Of the two types, this is the deadlier one. With an epidural hematoma, the bleeding occurs between the outer layer of the brain (the dura) and the skull. This is bad because it increases direct pressure on the brain. Fatality is about 15 to 20 percent.

    While any bleeding in the brain is not good, when it occurs under the dura (subdural), the blood tends to have more room to spread out, reducing the pressure on any one spot. A friend of mine got one of these from bumping her head backing out of her refrigerator. Given the right sort of impact and person, it doesn’t take much.

    I read an ambulance was initially called, in Natasha Richardson’s case, but the call was cancelled. Probably because seemed fine at the time. How often have most of us (or someone we know) hit their head and nothing ever seem to come of it? They said by the time they realized the severity of her injury the damage was too much.

    This is one of those tragic cases where, as much as we might like to think there was something that coud have been done or someone to blame, there really wasn’t. Let this be an example of how precious and tenuous life can be.

  • lulu

    Hey Amazed, you are an idiot not me. I was simply responding to the article above and the person who wrote it not you or anyone else. You also contridcted yourself when you said it should have been one of us then said the notes were expressed in a narcissistic way, but what you said was narcissitic. My note wasn’t at all. I’m not at all. So why dont you fuck off. Asshole.

  • MaryAnne, I do understand your surprise as genuine but maybe the wording was the real problem. I’m guessing that since it was totally unexpected for everyone, something as simple as WTF hit some kind of sentimental chord.

    All in all, it was something awful and sad.

  • AG

    MaryAnn, I had the same reaction, and phrased it about the same. And so did my partner. And we’ve been having it all week. What your haters above were getting from that I can’t imagine, but people like those are the reason I rarely bother with commenters these days on my own blog much less anyone else’s. (Of course you got the guy recently who seemed to think you review nothing but Watchmen-type films; is it possible there’s a permanent full moon over your computer or somethng?)

    But I thought you should know that another female of roughly your age and demographic group had essentially the same reaction — a snark-free expression of disbelief at the random fuckery of the universe vs our fragile little containers.

  • Dylan

    MaryAnn, I felt the same way you did, and I’m a neurology resident who’s seen people come into the emergency room with exactly the same thing. There just seems something so incredibly arbitrary and random about it. For some reason when it’s at work we don’t think about it that way (at least not in the height of the moment), but afterward, and in this case, reading it from a distance, on the news…to be honest, I don’t know of three other letters that can sum it up as well as WTF can.

  • Arco

    MaryAnn….you got flamed over this??? Over being shocked at this random accidental death that is so hard to grasp for all of us? I’m reading the page and I still can’t believe it. How….how, why would anyone get angry over you being shocked at her death???

    WTF expresses shock and surprise people. Nothing else. And if you’d notice: the ‘f-word’ is never actually written either. Get over yourselves and stop reveling in your misplaced sense of self-righteousness. Please. The net can be an ugly enough place already.

  • Saladinho

    I think there’s people out there who associate the “WTF” to internet skullduggery and faux hipness or something. And maybe it seemed flip. Not defending the idiotic attacks at all, but not surprised at how reactionary and stupid some people can be. As soon as they’re outraged, they don’t take the time to think or read further, they just go nuts.

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