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November 25, 2006

Postmortem

Over the past few months, David and I have watched the television series Six Feet Under in its entirety, from pilot to finale. Six Feet Under was a truly fantastic television show because it dealt with death, something our society usually shies away from. Every episode began with a death: some tragic, some hilarious, some both. Viewers saw, sometimes in excruciating detail, exactly what embalmers do to get the bodies ready for viewing. We also learned that being a funeral director isn't just about selling caskets, but also involves a lot of grief counseling. The show focused, however, on the lives of the Fisher family, who live in the funeral home. The series begins with one family death, that of Mr. Fisher, and ends with another family death (I won't give it away). The dead Mr. Fisher is still a regular character, though, appearing to his wife and children, sometimes to mock them, and sometimes to give them useful advice. He helps the other characters deal with their problems in life, from his gay son coming out to his daughter deciding to go to art school. My favorite thing about the show is that, even though most of the characters are terribly repressed (beginning with the mother, Ruth, the craziest one of all), they often speak and act their minds, almost as if they just can't hold in their true feelings any more. Sometimes they only fantasize about the things they want to do and say, but I still found it immensely liberating to see these characters doing and saying things that I would never allow myself to do, even if only in a dream or fantasy. I also love that the show is set in Los Angeles, my former home, though I think the writers could have done more with that.

My main criticism of the show is that there is way too much substance abuse. All of the characters drink like fish, and most of them smoke pot pretty regularly, including the parents. Somewhere around season three, David commented that the show must be sponsored by the pro-marijuana lobby. At certain points when dealing with close personal deaths, some of the characters become raging alcoholics, but a few episodes later seem to just be drinking normally. Yeah right.

I must admit that I had never really thought much about death before seeing this show. I have been lucky to have lost no friends and only very distant family members. I have been to only one funeral (not including Bo's service at the stadium), which was for someone I had never even met -- I went to support a friend. Watching Six Feet Under has inspired me to start reading The Undertaking by Thomas Lynch, a local funeral director who also teaches writing at UM.

Posted by eklanche at November 25, 2006 07:36 AM

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