1. Describe historical depictions of end of life. 2. Identify the current trends in the culture of grief and loss. 3. Describe common themes of death and grief in the media. 4. Discuss positives and negatives of how we manage death in 2011.
Media messages can often mirror ideologies, values and beliefs, provide readers with images for interpreting the world. Provides guidance for: Socialization Education Meaning Making Why not death and grief? -Hilliker, 2008
Death Depicted through the Visual Arts
The Arrival of the Queen’s Body and Its Reception by Cardinal Jean de Luxembourg, Jean Perreal, 1515 Descent from the Cross By Rogier van der Weyden, Mid 15 th Century
Entombment of St. Stephen Martyr Juan De Juanes, 1560
Dr. Tulp’s Anatomy Lesson, Rembrandt, 1632
“Funeral of Firstborn” Nikolay Alexandrovich Yaroshenko, 1893
There was a persistence of an attitude toward death that remained unchanged for thousands of years, an attitude that expressed a naïve acceptance of destiny and nature. The individual and community accepted death as an unalterable fate, and embraced domesticated rituals of mourning.
Death took place in the home Open coffin Wake open to all Photographs were common
The Home Wake Children were welcome and expected to be part of the funeral rituals. Death was part of life.
Death no longer welcome in the home Rise of the funeral industry Embalming Make-up Coffins Vaults Trained professionals
A time of transition 80% of death occurred in hospital or nursing home Rise of the hospice movement Legal and organizational aspects of death were the focus of public discussion Memorial services Cremation
Geoffrey Gorer (1955) Argued that popular culture would fill the void created by 20 th century avoidance of death. He believed death would take the place of sex as the new “taboo” topic. Following post-war sorrow when death was “sanitized” and removed from the home setting and moved into hospitals and nursing homes. Death became geographically removed.
Survey of 1,375 people 1 in 10 has broached the subject of where they would like to die. Even fewer have discussed medial care or pain relief at the end of life. 63% felt they were “too young” to discuss issues related to death and dying. Dying Matters survey: 70% say they want to die at home. 7% say they want to die in a hospital. Reality is: 60% actually die in the hospital. -Crompton (2009)
Virtual Cemeteries On-line Memorials Grief Chat Rooms Grief Blogs On-Line Condolence Messages Texts, Facebook pages, voice mails, and s are the new keepsakes equivalent to photos and home videos.
PROSCONS Fits our individualistic tendencies. Creates on line communities of support. Virtual friends may be better sources of support than real life friends or colleagues. How do we protect privacy and regulate information, and imagery that should be kept private?
Personnel Policies The Rules of Grief The Sick-Role Theory Study of 50 newspaper articles published in the New York Times “The media portrays grief as a state of mind that is abnormal and must be treated.” (Hilliker, 2008, p. 264)
1. Grief (the ailment) is not the fault of the bereaved (ill) person. 2. The grieving (ill) person is excused from their normal responsibilities; 3. Grief (the condition) is undesirable and the person should try to get well; and 4. The bereaved (ill) person is expected to seek out technically competent help through counseling (the medical profession).
The message seems to be: Your grief is no different than being sick. There are expectations from employers, other family members, and society to make a full recovery, move on, resume normal functioning, and get over the issues of grief and loss as quickly as possible. Hilliker, 2008.
Mediated Death and Real Life Contexts
“The fact is that today many people in North America and in Europe never see a dead body or witness a real death until their early to mid-adult years. However, the majority have seen hundreds if not thousands of simulated deaths via the media”
The consumption of death related media does not prepare us for real life experience of death of grief.
Shock Celebrity death is worth $$ and ratings. Inform Not all deaths are equal in the eyes of the media. Deaths related to poverty/AIDS/genocide and greatly under reported. Entertain Soap operas Crime/Detective shows Forensic Medical dramas Action Thriller Movies
In the eyes of the Media
Deaths due to poverty, AIDS, genocide, and natural disasters are highly under reported in the national media.
The depiction of dead bodies on prime time television has more than doubled between 2004 and The homicide rate on television is rising with violent death as the leading cause of death. The Corpse is the new media celebrity. -Foltyn (2008)
Do not mimic real life experiences of viewing a dead body. Fragmentation of the body. View the body from a scientist’s perspective thus distancing us from the emotional content. Proximity from a distance
You can buy body bags on eBay? You can buy autopsy DVD’s on Amazon.com Toy stores sell CSI kits for kids?
“This rational imperative extends to the way in which the corpse and death should be viewed: as an object for science rather than emotion, spirituality, or other cultural beliefs.” (Sue Tait)
We may indeed by under the illusion we know death very well; that it is something 21 st century human beings confront, constantly expose, and go towards, rather than seeing death as that which comes towards us, shaking values, knowledge and reason. Gibson, 2007
Few distinctions between fantasy and reality Presents a distorted understanding of the rate of violent death. Inadequate portrayal of the pain and suffering death causes family and friends. Death is a temporary state. Characters are often indestructible.
War against aging, the precursor to death CEO of the Human Genome Sciences, William Haseltine states “Death is nothing but a series of preventable diseases” (Callahan, p. 107)
“Cultures that live by the values of self- realization and self-mastery are not very good at dying, at submitting to those experiences where freedom ends and biological fate begins…their weak side is submitting to the inevitable” (Callahan, p. 112).
Body Worlds Exhibit
Was this a great scientific display or a profane misuse of the human body? Do we use dead bodies for education or do we discard them? Should we expose or disguise, display or hide, revere or defile, see dead bodies as sacred or profane? -Foltyn (2008)
Do we praise the one who accepts death with quiet resignation? Do we praise the one who fights death to the end? Do we wait until it is too late to discuss things that are most important? Do we allow one another to have anticipatory grief?
Conclusions by Callahan: We are better off if we do not try to explain away death as an accident or failure of medicine. Better off as individuals if we mourn the death of others. Better off when our mourning is public and nourished. Grief will never be cured by science. -Callahan, p
Palliative Care Movement Hospice Care Use Advance Directives as a “conversation starter” about the really hard topics. Affirm parents who set limits, watch television with their kids, know what games they are playing, and include them in death/funeral rituals. Mentor one another.
Get a pet. As pets come and go, children learn about death in a real way. Encourage viewing the body, open caskets, funeral services close to the time of death, rituals around burial. Buy flowers, take pictures, create memories, make handprints, collect hair samples, wear black, hang crepe from the door, take time to mourn. Have a celebration of life on the anniversary of death when time has been set aside for mourning. Others?
Callahan, D. (2009). Death, mourning, and medical progress. Perspective in Biology and Medicine. 52 (1), Encyclopedia of Death and Dying (2011). Children and Media Violence. Retrieved from Media-Violence.html Media-Violence.html Foltyn, J. (2008). Dead famous and dead sexy: Popular culture, forensics, and the rise of the corpse. Mortality 13 (2), Gibson, M. (2007). Death and mourning in technologically mediated culture. Health Sociology Review (16) 5,
Hilliker, L. (2008). The reporting of grief by one newspaper of record for the U.S.: The New York Times. OMEGA 57 (3) Quigley, Christine. (1996), The corpse: A history. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc.