Death & Popular Culture

Death The Hidden Factor

Death is hidden away from modern life. This is obvious from a visit to the supermarket. There is little connection between the death of a cow and the pre-packaged slice of dead cow backside. There is no acknowledgement of the life that was prematurely ended in order for that slice of dead cow backside to appear on the shelves. It just appears, pre-packaged, sealed in plastic, as though it just appeared that way. It is as though death is ignored and conveniently swept under the carpet.

Death Incantation

I found that people do not like to talk about death and is rarely spoken about. It’s as though it is a bad omen or bad luck. As though saying the words will bring death about, as if it were some sort of incantation. It is as ridiculous as whispering “Biggie Smalls” in the mirror 3 times and expecting Biggie Smalls to rise from the grave to bust a cap in yo ass. Don’t worry, say what you like in the mirror and yo ass will remain cap free.

Death & The Cult of Youth

In modern society there seems to be sentiment, or rather a cult of youth and life. In the cult, liberation means to stay young, wrinkle free, remaining as flexible and vital as when you were 18. Or at least to appear this way, by overdoing it at the gym and hitting the botox until you have no feeling left in your face. Speaking about old age and death shows the reality, that the cult of youth and life has goals that are unachievable. Remaining young and alive is unsustainable.

Of course, this is a false liberation that is little more than attachment to looks. This view fails to include Buddha’s teaching on Dependent Arising, and will surely fall victim to the suffering of change.

Death In Popular Culture

Death does appear a few times in popular culture, like in the movies ‘Fearless’ and ‘American Beauty’.

In ‘Fearless’, Jeff Bridges’ character experiences a brush with death. After this he is sent in another direction in life, everything else is deprioritised, such as throwing out his son’s games console because it is a waste of time.

The transformation of Kevin Spacey’s character in ‘American Beauty’ is great. By the time he comes to die, he is enjoying life again. He enjoys flipping burgers like he did in his
youth, buys the car of his dreams, and takes care of his body.

Other films like ‘Wit’ with Emma Thompson, ’50/50′ with Anjelica Huston are also important. But instead of using death as a subject matter to change life, these two films are focused on the actual experience of preparing for death. This too is important, but deserves it’s own blog entries.