Death and the Media

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The media has such an influence in our lives that it affects our beliefs, tastes, and generally, the way we deal with certain situations. It acts as a guideline to society, dictating our behavior, and occasionally, even feelings. Death, and our understanding of it, certainly doesn’t escape the influence of the media. Because the media portrays death as a moment of great sadness and sorrow, there’s always a great deal of respect for the dead, and sympathy for the mourners, displayed in the news. Unless the person is Osama Bin Laden, then it is strictly unacceptable for people to cheer or be happy because somebody has died – regardless of how that person lived his or her life. For instance, before his death, the well-renown and beloved Penn State football coach, Joe Paterno had fallen out of grace. After having been the head coach for a very long time, Joe Paterno was fired after allegations that he had failed to report cases of sexual abuses on minors, perpetrated by his assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Despite the gravity of the allegations, and the disgust that a lot of people felt that such atrocity was allowed to continue over a long period of time, Joe Paterno, after his death, was given sort of a pass in the media, as many did not want to disrespect his memory. So the media teaches to be respectful of the dead, regardless of who that person was. It also teaches us to honor the memory of the dead. And there could not be a greater example of that than the commemoration of the victim of 9/11, twelve years after the terrorist attack that took the lives of thousands of Americans.

 When it comes to movies, however, the portrayal of death is slightly different; it carries a little bit more religious connotation. The media usually does not mention the idea of afterlife. While it certainly promotes the remembrance of people’s life, it rarely does however, make reference to heaven, or the idea that one’s spirit still lives on. In movies though, this idea is very prevalent. Words such as “lost one”, “departed”, “left”, “gone”, and “passed away”, are often used to describe those who have died. Those words portray the idea that the person simply went to another place, a better place, as people like to think. Case in point, in “Harry Potter”, Harry often finds himself in situation where his deceased parents help him, which conveys the idea that death isn’t absolute; that somehow, the dead are looking over us (from above). Additionally, the dead are often portrayed as sources of strength and inspiration for the living. In “A walk to remember”, London is able to accomplish his goals in honor of his deceased young wife, Jamie.

Ultimately, whether the different portrayals of death in the media are helpful, misleading, or unclear, depends on one’s own beliefs. To some people, it might be very helpful to think that their loved ones aren’t totally gone; that they’re looking over them. To others, this idea might seem misleading because their beliefs don’t allow them to think that their loved ones looking over them from above. It is important to note that the portrayal of death by the media is really general. The general assumption in the media is that everyone deals with death almost the same way. It’s a time of sadness, grievance, and remembrance. The use of language certainly supports the idea that America is a “death denying culture”. Often times during interviews, people are granted a moment when it’s getting hard for them to talk about a beloved person who have passed away, and it is very common for people to observe a minute of silence in the memory of the dead.

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6 thoughts on “Death and the Media

  1. One of the many reasons I love the movie, A Walk To Remember, is because Jamie’s death wasn’t a sudden event, but rather a long process. It was interesting and beautiful to see how she chose to live the rest of her life. Very rarely in movies is someone’s death so drawn out. Typically Hollywood prefers some instant tragic death with explosions or guns. I agree with the point you made about the religious aspect to this movie. The media tends to avoid the subject of religion, but in this film, Jamie and her father are very religious and Christianity becomes a main motif for the film. However, you also made the argument that the film doesn’t reference heaven often. This is an interesting concept. The filmmakers chose to obviously incorporate religion, yet still feel uncomfortable discussing the afterlife. This concept is a reflection of the culture we live in today.

  2. The media portrays death in a very general way. This assumption is wrong. Dealing with deaths, especially the death of a loved one, can be very difficult for many. It is very accurate to say that the mourning and the way people react to dying is completely determined by their beliefs. Some people, especially religious individuals, might not react as drastically as some others do. Most of the times they believe their significant others are in a much better place, such as heaven, therefore giving them comfort. Others, however, might experience a state of shock, or other extremities. Death is dealt differently from person to person.

    • I stand by what I said concerning the generalization of death, or rather, people’s reaction to it, by the media. Some cultures actually celebrate the death of their loved ones because they believe that they’re (the people who died) in a better place. The media always assume that death is a moment of sadness, grievance, and extreme pain. While that is certainly the case for most people, not everyone follows the same customs.

  3. I don’t believe that all movies portray death in a religious way. On top of that, I don’t agree with the fact that movies don’t talk about an afterlife. Just yesterday I watched a movies called ‘Insidious: Chapter 2’ in which one of the main focuses was an afterlife that was called “The Further”. There are countless movies that present death in a non-religious was and focus on spiritual aspect such as ghosts. Death in movies can be digested in many different ways and it is up to the audience to make their decisions on what they saw. Whether or not they participate in some form of religion.

    • I never said that “all movies portray death in a religious way”, with the plethora of movies that have been made, that would be a gross generalization on my part. Moreover, I never said that movies don’t talk about an afterlife. In contrast, I said : “In movies though, this idea (referring to afterlife) is very prevalent.”

  4. I love this movie. I think that this is the perfect movie when it comes to death and dying. I love your analysis and I agree with the fact that our lives is affected by our beliefs, tastes and the way we deal with certain situations. I think this movie is perfect when it comes to death and dying because there is no horrific scenes that take place and the death of Jamie’s death seems very real like as if it actually took place in real life. The way that Jamie’s death but was so sudden but the process of her death was long is just like how it seems to happen in the real world and that’s why this movie is great when it comes to talking about death and dying.

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