How Films Influence Our Notions of Death and the After-world

I think it was in 1993 or 1994 that I had a birthday party screening the one and only 1988 cult classic “Beetlejuice.” (A 7 year old’s birthday party with Beetlejuice, and that too in Turkey, weird family I know…). As an adult, I still love this film, and not only because of its unique premise, but also how the usually ghastly topic of death is portrayed in such a humorous way. Until then in cinema, we had not considered that the dead could be a sweet couple from the suburbs, or that the after-world could be a waiting room not too different than a dentist’s. There are very few films that have actually tackled death in this satirical way, and maybe this is also why the film obtained such cult status over the years.

Bhoot World Mein Teen Cheezo ki Kami HaiThe 2008 Hindi film Boothnath starring Amitabh Bachchan followed a similar path, albeit with less humor. It was successful in normalizing death and the dead however, just as Beetlejuice had done. In Boothnaath, the dead was a grouchy but good-hearted old man (based on Oscar Wilde’s The Canterville Ghost in fact), and the after-world was basically an Indian government office.

There have been a few other Indian films that have helped disseminate some of the stigma attached to death, for example the 2013 Telugu horror comedy Prema Katha Chitram and the 2012 Bengali film Hemlock Society. Rather than using satire to display a fantasized and ironically ‘normal’ death, these films mocked suicide by suggesting suicide, thereby bringing attention to high suicide rates among youth in India.

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It’s rather sad that this humorous and satirical take on death and what await us afterward, cannot become more mainstream in cinema. There is a plethora of films and TV shows releasing daily that remind us of the horror that we normally associate with death– serial killers, revengeful murders, painful accidents, and after it’s over, zombies, vampires, ghosts and demons to haunt us and give us sleepless nights. If you notice, death is the main thread in all horror products. I don’t think we even realize the extent to which the big screen influences how we think of death. If only more cinema could take death as lightly as it often does life, and remove some of the stigmas and subconscious fears usually associated with it.

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Gossip Girl: The Unexpected Muse

Partially, I would be embarrassed to admit that I watch Gossip Girl, the American TV series that ran between 2007 and 2012. I used to watch it when I was in college and the TV series which aimed at the high school crowd at the time appealed to me mostly because of its fashion statements. But fast forward a decade, it is kind of shocking that the show remains amusing.

Let’s face it, which self-respecting and moderate woman who takes herself seriously can take pride in admiring a show that at first glance is full of self-obsessed characters of few morals and completely unrealistic personal relationships? But the matter of fact is that I do. And it’s certainly not because everyone has slept with everyone else at some point in the show.

While Gossip Girl is a materialistic, villainous show of sexual immorality, and unrealistic plot twists from one angle, it is exuberant of attitude, style, intelligence, humor, sarcasm and wit from another. Gossip Girl combines beauty and extremely good taste in clothing with surprisingly diverse vocabulary, and amusing comebacks that hit you when you least expect it. Here are some examples to prove my case in point:

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