Can Popular Culture Help Us Cope With Death?

Key points We can be obsessed with death, which is reflected in popular culture. Entertainment helps us engage with the serious existential question of death. These existential questions about life include mortality and the afterlife. Source: Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash “Do you guys ever think about dying?” This question, the key question in the best picture-nominated and extremely popular film Barbie (as well as, let’s face it, the key question in every major religion out there), is the provocation of the moment. The question, which includes, of course, considerations of one’s own mortality, others dying, living with grief , and the existentially compelling issue of what happens after we die, seems to be either explicitly or implicitly baked into forms of entertainment that do more than merely entertain. Evidence for thinking about death, if not downright obsessing about it, can be found in numerous year-end summaries that accompany and ritualize the passage of one year into the next. The Guardian just published an overview of pop music this year, and except for the triumphs of Taylor Swift, the article mainly highlighted what the writer refers to as an “aching sense of loss” in so much music this year. It is an undeniably morbid, often sorrowful, grief-filled, and highly creative musical output of such artists as Sufjan Stevens and Everything But the Girl. The touchstone commemorations of entertainers and other famous people who have died over the course of the year are also familiar reminders in our lives to remember death. Other obvious mortal fixations that range from the most painstakingly intimate portraits of loss to collective fixations on the end of the world can be found across cultural productions beyond music, including film, streaming television, memoirs, fictional literature, pop psychology, podcasts, and on and on and on. Rather […]

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By Donato