Tag Archives: death

Carpe Mortem: Seize Death!

“Carpe Mortem”…. reads the title of this post. It is certainly not a popular or well-received saying for that matter. The phrase definitely has its share of negative connotations, and this past week I stumbled upon an interesting comedy clip, Don’t Fear Death, that defies the typical responses to mortality and instead glorifies the concept of death!


Courtesy of Dice Productions, this twisted humor features a male narrator who boasts of the benefits of dying. The narrator claims that with death comes freedom and the lack of responsibility. His obsession with death essentially implies that the fear of death is irrational. Although he aims to present his views in a positive light, the video clip is riddled with dark imagery, which does not necessarily seem like a strategic way of convincing audiences that death is as glorious and advantageous as the narrator perceives it to be. Every scene displays human corpses, bodily fluids, and there are also multiple appearances from Grim Reaper. However, this is an animated clip, so this imagery somewhat adds to the underlying humor of the overall story. It also decreases the affect that the concept of death and this perceived glorification may have truly had on general audiences if, say instead, real humans had been cast to portray the narrative.

At one point during the clip, the narrator questions our innate fear of death, and then proceeds to answer. Humans are “wary of that bright light and scared of the unknown.” Yes. This is certainly true considering the fact that generally as a culture, death is inevitably stigmatized and talk of it can be unsettling. That being said, humans are instinctively apprehensive of what awaits them: the nature of the death process, what it does to our bodies, how it affects the survivors, as we talked about in class, and how we, as a society, perceive death from that moment forward. Humans do not have control over such a phenomenon, which, in turn, can be frightening.

The end of the clip is comical and features an unexpected twist. The viewers discover that the male voice is that of a flight attendant on a plane, full of passengers, and that the plane has actually caught on fire. When the flight attendant concludes his unusual and for all intensive purposes, disturbing banter about the wonders of death, he is met with a silent and disapproving reaction from the passengers, who are also distraught about their life-threatening situation. Frustrated, the flight attendant takes the last available parachute, and he himself escapes death and lands safely, leaving the poor passengers destitute.

I am completely certain that the flight attendant is in denial of death. It is amusing that the he had never experienced death, but interestingly enough felt it necessary to speak so highly of the concept of death.  Perhaps a logical explanation for his behavior was that he was unsure of how to confront the issue of death that soon awaited him. Maybe he wanted to convince himself to accept his fate, something he probably still feared even though he claimed otherwise. The fact that he selfishly left the passengers and escaped contradicts his entire argument that death is not the curse it once was. I believe that the writer chose to end the clip this way to reinforce this idea of mocking the public’s fear of and reactions to death. In all, the social implications of death, as illustrated by the flight passengers and ironically the actions of the attendant himself, demonstrate that culturally, there is much discomfort when dealing with and engaging in discourse concerning death.

View the clip here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZHR5RqKw-0

Evil Dead and the dead body

Last semester around April, me and my friends decided to go watch a gem of a movie called Evil Dead. Now, Evil Dead was a remake of a 1981 movie directed by Sam Raimi. The movie consists of a group of teenagers who go to a cabin to detox this girl:

but it doesn’t go well for her….

She eventually gets possessed by some demonic spirit. This transition from a young, living girl to a possessed demon-girl was interesting to me because while she’s still alive, her body seems to be decaying in the same way a corpse decays. Why is it that demonic possession is frequently manifested in the rotting of the body? By associating the dead body with the demonic body, there seems to be a sort of implicit judgment of the dead body as having a deep connection to Satan or demons. The dead body is unholy and thus possession manifests itself through turning the host body into a corpse.

As I grew to perceive the possessed girl as a quasi-corpse, scenes such as this one:


made me think more about the relationship between possession and death. The girl in the movie seems to no longer occupy her body, as seen when she says that Mia is no longer there. This reminded me of the saying, “S/he’s in a better place now” in that the body is thought to no longer contain the person’s soul. So, much like the dead body, the possessed body no longer contains the host soul.

In addition, my reaction to the sexualization of the possessed body seemed to parallel my reaction to necrophilia. As something that no longer exists in an easily categorized plane as living or dead, the possessed body seemed to function as something that cannot give consent. The sexualization of something that physically resembled a corpse made me uncomfortable, something that the makers of the movie wanted.

1000 Ways to Get Comfortable with Death?

Have you ever had one of those days where you just can’t seem to get off the couch, and mindless channel surfing transforms from a merely a procrastination technique to the day’s activity? If so, you may be familiar with Spike TV’s 1000 Ways to Die, a series dedicated to retelling the real-life stories of those who have fallen victim to strange and unusual deaths. Far from an educational or austere program, the show is littered with dramatized and embellished reenactments of real life events. To say the show’s producers have used an artistic license is an understatement – each story is told by a sardonic narrator who uses dark humor to show his unsympathetic view of each victim. The victim is usually presented as an idiotic, deserving fool, for which death is a rightful result of their poor decisions. This is perhaps best illustrated by the cringe-worth puns that end each episode. After being described as a steroid-pumped, SUV-loving cyclist-hater, a man who gets hit by a semi-truck after driving two cyclists off the road is described as going “from road rage, to road kill.” To grasp this show’s mocking, unabashed humor, I believe this clip speaks for itself:

[jwplayer mediaid=”880″]

It’s obvious that 1000 Ways to Die is not the next critically acclaimed show that is promised to spellbind viewers from across the nation. But as somebody who has watched more episodes than I’m willing to admit, what makes this show so entertaining? And do we believe ethical to use other people’s misfortune as a source of entertainment? The former question has a slightly easier answer – there’s something Americans love about pranks, tricks, and those rare “oops” moments. Funny at the time, these moments become even funnier then captured on camera to enjoy again and again (consider the popularity of a recent YouTube video showing a woman accidentally lighting herself on fire while twerking)

Although these videos may make us cringe with the imagined pain of the victims, we find it ok to laugh, because we know they’re going to be ok. Maybe badly hurt, but alive. Laughing at their death would just be cruel.

With this in mind, why do we allow ourselves to laugh at the foolishness of people on 1000 Ways to Die? Is this ethical? I argue that the answer comes from the clever words of the sadistic narrator. Since the narrator makes each death seem like the victim’s fault, we find it ok to laugh at them – after all, they deserved it. Their poor decisions justify the punishment, and we can justify our laughter.

Although 1000 Ways to Die does not present death in the most graceful or respectful manner, I support it’s presence on TV simply because it gives death a presence. Many Americans are fearful and unfamiliar with death. 1000 Ways to Die uses humor to lighten the sober theme, a clever trick to make viewers comfortable with the topic of death. For those uncomfortable with the disease-stricken and war-torn bodies on CNN, I suggest giving 1000 Way to Die a try.

The effect of social media on death

At the recent seminar, one of the concepts that I found interesting was about the effect of social media on death. As technology advances, social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter improve the means for people to contact and reach out to each other. The effect of media can be both positive and negative. One effect that we can see clearly is the returning definition of death as a social event. In history, death was a more public social event. However, after we were able to learn more about death and even interfere with it, death became the symbol of defeat, grief, and a horrible destiny that many people wish to avoid. The following article “How social media is changing the way we approach death” (by Paul Bisceglio), using Scott Simon case as example, talks about the positive effect of social media by making death a public event. According to this article, near death people who suffered from terminal illness and their relatives can find comfort and happiness from their “followers”. When you are lying alone in the hospital bed, unable to sleep, how nice would it be to receive support from hundreds of people from all over the world? Bisceglio also points out that this publicity on death would give other people the real information about near death experiences so they can be more prepared for their future. As you comment on Facebook of someone who has passed away, you will be able to share the sympathy and feeling about the person who is dead and think about your own future. The “followers” might feel that they also hope to receive the same support and comfort when their time comes.

The interesting question to me is that how people have suddenly changed from the perception of death as an unfortunate, private matter to an encouraging and public event. Maybe it is again, the cultural changes that influence death. When we weren’t able to do anything about death in the past, we were able to accept and prepare for death. Now, when we encountered terminal diseases for a long time and have not figured out a way to “conquer” them, people start to accept the unavoidable death again. This kind of acceptance spreads even more rapidly thanks to the network of social media.

Social media doesn’t affect death only in a good way. Although, we are returning to the ancient concept of death as a public event, now the scale is much larger. A town public event is nowhere similar to a global public event. And the media network has the power to give death its global appearance. One of the new problems that social media brought to us is the new concept of “haters”. Especially in celebrity’s cases, in their death and near death experiences, there can be many hurtful comments and opinions that deepen the pain in that person as well as in their families. I have seen cases where people create fake Facebook pages to take advantages of the dead by pretending to raise fund for the family of the dead person. This lead to the question of how much death can be a public event? At what point should we share our death experiences with others?

Link: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/08/how-social-media-is-changing-the-way-we-approach-death/278836/

Killing in the Name of Honor

Honor killings have been defined as the homicide of a family member, typically a woman, due to the belief that the victim has brought dishonor or shame to the family. This dishonor is usually brought upon the family due to rumors involving the woman having an affair or a relationship with a man, who does not meet the family standards. These honor killings are predominant in regions of North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. Often, these honor killings go unreported and never reach the public eye.

In a recent article in The Jerusalem Report, a young woman was a victim of an honor killing, due to rumors that she was having a relationship with a Muslim man, something her Christian family did not deem appropriate. Due to these accusations, the woman was stabbed and killed by her cousin’s brother. The victim’s cousin, Sarah, reflects on the moment she figured out what had happened to her cousin and discusses the constant outbreaks of honor killings throughout Egypt that made her want to come out and tell her story. The link to the article can be found here:


Death is always viewed as a solemn event in any culture; however, it is more tragic to hear that a family member would kill their own. What is even more shocking is when the death is the result of a mere rumor. It makes you question how far people are willing to go in the name of honor and how people in these societies belittle the value of a human life, or more specifically, the value of a woman’s life. This article brings up the debate of when a cultural practice or ritual is no longer ethical and if it should still be tolerated. Would it be considered ethnocentric for Westerners to say that these killings are inhumane and should be stopped, or do the men in these cultures have the right to kill members of their family in the name of honor because it’s simply the way their society works?


We are all born to die.

We mentioned in class the other day how “dying young” can be considered a “bad death”. However, I came to thinking about our current young culture of YOLO (Thank you Drake). “You only live once” has perfused through so much of our culture, especially for young populations, that death is a far off thing. Right now, people feel they’re invincible, living on extremes and partaking in behavior that contributes to a slow and invisible death (the booze and buzz for example). The typical college scene thrives off of this image of do-whatever-you-want because, hey, what do you have to lose (besides your one life)?

I was listening to Lana Del Rey’s “Born to Die”, and I thought it summed up this idea in an interesting way. The lyrics:

“Come on take a walk on the wild side
Let me kiss you hard in the pouring rain
You like your girls insane…
Choose your last words,
This is the last time
Cause you and I
We were born to die”

Scene from “Born to Die” Music Video

In an interview Lana says, “When I was young I was overwhelmed by thoughts of my own mortality, but I also found fleeting moments of happiness in the arms of my lover and friends. This track and the record are about these two worlds–death and love–coming together.”

Our culture is so obsessed with death, but in a variety of ways apparent in our social media. The underlying theme I see, especially in music, is that regardless of how or when you die, death is universal. We are all born in this world and at some point we all leave it. It almost is like we are born to die, for death is inescapable for everyone. Why not go all out then and “live like you’re dying”?

Assisted Death

Advocates of assisted suicide support it, because they believe that it is not painful to the individual and instead, acts as a relief for those suffering from a poor quality of life (whether it is due to an illness or old age). However, thirty-three of the fifty states support a painful assisted death, the lethal injection of prisoners.

In a recent report issued by the Human Rights Watch, titled So Long as They Die, the organization highlights that “although supporters of lethal injection believe the prisoner dies painlessly, there is mounting evidence that prisoners may have experienced excruciating pain during their executions.” Like methods described in the movie Suicide Plan, lethal injection requires a sequence of drugs: an anesthetic, a paralytic, and potassium chloride, which stops the heart. However, unlike the drug cocktail used during assisted suicide that yield a painless death, the drugs approved by state officials for legal injection have been deemed “too cruel to use on dogs and cats.” What makes it worse is that prisoners are often paralyzed but “insufficiently anesthetized,” and therefore, although they are experiencing intense pain, they are unable to “signal their distress.”

The descriptions of the things that have gone wrong in executions were appalling. Some included:

  • “For over an hour, medical technicians and then a physician tried to find a suitable vein for intravenous access. The condemned inmate ended up with one needle in his hand, one in his neck, and a catheter inserted into the vein near his collarbone. One hour and nine minutes after he was strapped to the gurney, the prisoner was pronounced dead.
  • “A kink in the intravenous tubing stopped some of the drugs from reaching an inmate. In the same execution, the intravenous needle was inserted pointing the wrong way-towards the inmate’s fingers instead of his heart, which slowed the effect of the drugs.”
  • “A prisoner who initially lost consciousness during his lethal injection execution began convulsing, opened his eyes, and appeared to be trying to catch his breath while his chest heaved up and down repeatedly. This lasted for approximately ten minutes before his body stopped twitching and thrashing on the gurney.”
In the movie, Law Abiding Citizen they show a lethal injection that corresponded to some of these examples. Below is the link for a clip of the scene: 
Now imagine this going on for 10…20…or even 30 minutes, like what occurred during the lethal injection of Angel Diaz.
How is this humane? People may do bad things in their life, but no one deserves to die in this way. However, it is not only supported by states but people come to watch these people die this way. Families hurt by the individual gain satisfaction in seeing the person die.     

On another note, I found it interesting that the death penalty is legal and the punishment is given, because a judge, jurors, and the families that fall victim to the actions of the prisoner during their life believe that the he or she deserves to die. Yet, euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal. Do people suffering in this world not deserve to have the right to die too?

Let’s Go On A….Grief Vacation?

For many of those who have had to live through the tragedy of losing a loved one there are often several months of grief and sadness that  survivors must endure following the death.  In many situations, there is no time or space where it is appropriate to openly grieve.  People are surrounded by places filled with memories and familiar smells that haunt them.  Some are left with family responsibilities and must constantly appear strong so the underlying infrastructure doesn’t crumble beneath them.  A few weeks after the loss of a loved one, neighbors stop bringing over meals and those more distant begin to forget.  However, the loss is still very new and those more closely related to the deceased are often still only in the beginning stages of grief and attempting to piece their lives back to normal.

The last thing one might think of is taking a vacation during this time period; however, those who do, find that it is much easier to proceed in their grieving process.  Those who choose to go somewhere fun, where they can take their minds off the sadness that has overwhelmed their lives, find that they don’t forget that they are grieving, but find it easier to remember the happier times with their loved one.  For others, a vacation taken alone to a familiar spot may be easier, it gives the person the time and space to openly grieve and heal.

After the death of her teenage daughter to suicide, Jaletta Desmond, described how she and her husband decided to go to Las Vegas  to celebrate a friend’s birthday only a couple of months after the tragedy.  Desmond describes that “Although we were able to laugh and visit and enjoy our friends and each other, we knew jumping on a jet to Vegas wouldn’t carry us away from our grief.”  However, they both found that it was refreshing to be temporarily distracted by their sadness. She believed that her experience in Vegas somehow revived her and allowed her to begin to move past the grief that she had dwelled in for so long while also allowing her to become more equipped to go back to a home filled with past memories.

-E. Robinson

To find out more on Jaletta Desmond’s journey, please click here.

The Extreme Funeral Planning

A part of the process of death is preparing for death.  On an episode of  “Keeping Up With the Kardashians”, 56-year old Kris Jenner introduces the serious topic of death and burial to the Kardashian/Jenner/Odom/Disick families.  In the unfortunate event that one of their family members dies, Kris believes it’s important and essential to be prepared.  A mother of six, her inspiration on this topic arose from shortly after visiting her ill mother.  The entire family didn’t take her seriously, and started laughing hysterically!

Kris goes to many measures to make sure everything is set in stone for her family’s burial. We may not realize this at first, but funerals are a business. There are a myriad of options of how to treat bodies post-death, many of which are culturally constructed. These options seem normal to us, because that is how our culture makes them seem.  After the death of a loved one, we are to decide what kind of casket to get, based on the dead’s wishes and preferences. Thus, some people like to be prepared and have specific preferences on what they want, while other’s don’t mind.

Since Kris Jenner noticed that her family wasn’t really as passionate about this as she was, she decided to take this responsibility upon herself.  She proceeded to lay down in a casket and test it out, so she could decide on what kind she wanted to have for herself after death. Kris Jenner took a picture of herself with her eyes closed acting as if she was a dead, embalmed body and sent it to her children via text message.  There is a lot of importance placed on “the viewing” and the appearance of the body after death. Her motive was to hopefully shake her children up, and make them realize how she would look if death came upon her.  Kris also wanted to prove a point, that this was a serious this topic and also that she’s really worried no one will be there for her to take care of her.  Kris even posed in a deluxe model coffin, and although shaken, her daughter Kim was not bothered by the image of her mother’s death.

(Image from The Daily Mail)

Even though her family is discouraged and uninterested, nothing stops Kris Jenner from taking a tour at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery and Funeral Home in Los Angeles, dragging her husband along.  Jokingly, Khloe Kardashian says the burial site should have a mausoleum and a moat.  The event planner and celebrity Kim Kardashian seems to be interested on just having a “fab” location to be buried in. Kris goes as far as ordering which flowers she would like best at their funeral as well.  As a business manager, its in Kris’ blood to be such a big planner.  For some, these burial rituals aren’t important, but for others give it a lot of thought and importance.

Kris took her entire family to a potential burial site and planned where everyone’s coffins would be placed on the celebrity-filled Hollywood plot, just for her family.  Since the Kardashian/Jenner/Odom/Disick family have all been so close and connected due to the show that is aired on E!, it only makes sense to Kris  to be buried together.  Funeral homes symbolize the removal from one home to another home.  It’s comforting to think that even when dead, the family is close in proximity and stays together.

The idea of planning one’s death may seem morbid and outrageous.  However, the ultimate concern of Kris was legitimate.  The idea of death may seem scary, due to the fear of the unknown.  Also, as a mother, she is worried that her children will not take care of her or care for her when she’s older or dead.   Kris is independent right now, but there are a lot of elderly who are suffering due to their children’s lack of attention.  Many people laugh it off jokingly, and make it seem like death and burial isn’t an important topic to discuss about since it’s in the future.  However, sometimes comedy and satire are ways of dealing with not wanting to talk about this sensitive and emotional subject. Granted it is good to plan for the future, but Kris planning her and her family’s funeral and burial to the T is slightly discomforting.

In the end, I found it slightly weird how her son, Rob Kardashian, tattooed a picture of Kris on his forearm, as a symbol that she will never be forgotten and to let go of the funeral discussion in total.  Many times people get pictures, dates, and phrases, or any symbol of memorabilia permanently tattooed to their body when someone close to them passes away.  This was Rob’s gesture to show his mother he cared for her.  Who knows, maybe this extreme gesture was necessary to finally put Kris to peace?

(Image from The Daily Mail)

To watch another clip from the episode, please visit http://www.usmagazine.com/entertainment/news/kris-jenner-plans-her-funeral-2012178


-S. Gillani

Six Great Tech Tools for Planning Your Own Death

As time goes on, it is clear that the world is becoming more technologically dependent. But have you ever thought about how nonmedical technology affects one’s death rather than one’s life? Recently, there have been several applications and tools available through both Facebook and the Apple AppStore that can offer assistance in planning one’s death. These programs range from allowing one to write their will to storing private family information that is later used in legal matters.

The will is one of the most important documents one can provide post mortem; it lists who inherits what property. Now, one can begin writing or edit their will as many times as they want with the “MyWill” application, a free program that can be downloaded through the Apple AppStore. The user is able to assign certain pieces of property to certain heirs. It also allows the user to assign a new legal guardian for their minor children!

A living will is different than a normal will in that a living will outlines critical healthcare decisions in advance. Thus, if the user is unable to communicate and is in a critical medical condition, this application can be used to access the patient’s wishes regarding medical treatment. “iLivingWill” is a $0.99 iPad application that allows one to do just that.

“If I Die”is a program available on Facebook that allows users to record a message to loved ones and friends if they were to die unexpectedly. The user can choose up to three people to send this recording to via Facebook message.

Another free app that is available is called “Funeral Advice”. It provides video tutorials that allow one to essentially and interactively plan their own funeral. This application guides one in the right direction by suggesting funeral homes, casket choices and steps to take after losing a loved one.

“Death Meter” has been criticized by many people for its lack of credible information. This program gives one an approximate idea of when they will die based oninformation inputted by the user. This program takes into account hygiene, diet, family history and daily activity. There are multiple other websites that serve the same purpose.

Personally, I would probably never purchase or download any of these programs but of all these applications, the one that I would find the most useful is “AssetLock”. With this application, one is able to store important records in reference to financial records, insurance policies and funeral arrangements. Members of the family can then access this information after the user has deceased. “AssetLock” acts as somewhat of a “virtual safety deposit box.”

After reading this article I felt a little “creeped out”. It’s one thing to talk to someone about your death personally with a lawyer and/or funeral director and plan out how you want the ceremonies and legal aspects to be carried out. But the fact that someone can whip out their iPhone on a subway on their commute to work and write a will or allocate their assets is a little too close for comfort. Although some may be skeptical of these tools, programs like these make people more aware of death because its implications and guidelines are accessible at any moment.

I later visited www.findyourfate.com/deathmeter/deathmtr.html and plugged in my information. The Death Meter claims that I will die on June 5, 2079, now we just have to wait and see how accurate that truly is…

Jared Siegel

This article can be found here: (http://www.wisebread.com/six-great-tech-tools-for-planning-your-own-death-0)