Death Hype: Why We Glamorize Mortality

I was reading old comments on this blog and someone asked what beauty there was in death. No, that wasn’t the question. The question was what glamour there was in death. If it wasn’t the question, I find it more appealing, so I’ll say it is.

Why is death beautiful? Easy answer. Death is beautiful because it is awe inspiring. Death does not ever stop only one life. It ripples out, freezing the movement of everyone near it. Death is truly a cold hand on your shoulder. When you hear of someone passing, it chills you. It takes every expectation you had for the next week, month, year, decade…and annihilates it. And that is, in many ways, God’s voice, directly on you…”Your life is an illusion. Your purpose has nothing to do with anything on your to do list. Your happiness is nowhere near that drink, that sex, that blackberry, that computer. You are here for one thing. Gratitude.” And then your week, month, year, decade is sharing memories, giving to the ones most affected, receiving from those less affected, loving everyone a little more, feeling feelings a lot more. “Thank you for your well wishes.” “Thank you for coming.” “Thank you for the food. I just haven’t had a chance to cook since..” “Thank you.” “I am thankful for…” “You’re welcome.” In effect, your life becomes gratitude. That is why death is beautiful.

Okay, before going into why death is glamorous, I also want to touch on why it is fascinating, especially to artists. Alan Ball, creator of Six Feet Under and True Blood, in an Entertainment Weekly interview: “When I was 13 years old, I was in a car accident with my sister who was driving the car. It was her 22nd birthday and she died. She died in front of me. She died all over me. (Death) stuck its big old ugly face in my face and my life changed. That’s why death seems to be a theme that appears in all my stuff.” But not all artists who find death their main character are so close to death in their life. I know I, personally, write about death because I have so little direct interaction with it. I know I fear loss. I fear my own death. And as I contemplate it, I have no event or person who instantly attaches to my brain. And it does lead me to have a fairly rich imagination on how death “works.” And since I know it will happen sooner or later -death will become a prevalent part of my days as I get older and it becomes more and more inevitable,- I don’t let it go. I explore it in hopes of preparing for it. So we are fascinated with death because we will meet it, it and as life goes on, know it better and better. We are fascinated because, no matter if you believe in God, you must know that Death is a higher power than you. It may be the only higher power you will admit to, but it cannot be denied. Our fascination is us bracing ourselves to meet this stronger force.

Now why is death glamorous? Why is this sacred, albeit inevitable, event so primped and paraded in tv and film? CSI shows, serial killer homages, medical examiner reality shows, true crime, horror movies (mmmm horror movies), goth kids, skull fashion and on and on and on. What do we see in this dark, dark world?

We are terrified of our own mortality. We know our fear is irrational. Moot. We will die. Guaranteed. So some decide the logical recourse is to embrace it. Have fun with it. It’s gonna happen. Let’s make it a party. So some plan their funerals like final hurrahs. They joke about the way they will die to combat the terror in knowing they have no idea how…or worse yet, they know how and it terrifies them all the more. Some laugh with death. Some laugh at others’ death. Some make it sexy. Some of us even whore it out, selling final days with t-shirts and posters. All this is not embracing. It feels like it. It feels like if I wear a skull and crossbones on my pretty dress, then I’m fine with the end. I’m so cool with it, I wear it. But it’s only a bizarre twist on keeping your enemies closer. You hate death, so you befriend it, hoping it never turns on you. But all of us who try never succeed. Death doesn’t need your voluntary embrace. We glamorize death in the hopes of its voluntary release.

I am one of the people who loves horror movies and keeps fake body bits in my house. Hell, I’m even making a cannibal movie. I certainly don’t judge the glamorized end. But I always feel awkward when the “fun death” suddenly hits a very real nerve and it’s no longer fun and it’s horrible. I feel cheap. Which is all the more reason to explore why death is sensationalized and hyped. When are we allowing death to be revered for the sacred event that it is? When are we forcing it to be less than what it is? I don’t want to cheapen death. I want to respect it as I delve into its darkness. I want my humor to be respectful. I even want my gore to be respectful. Death is not a friend. It is not an enemy. Death is family. Always there, influencing us, and by our side, whether we see it or not. So because of that, I hope to work with death, learn and explore and expose death with my eyes open to my own fears and hang ups.

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