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October 07 2008

The Everyday Undead. An AP piece examining Hollywood's increasingly mundane portrayals of the dearly not-so-departed. Buffy gets a few mentions.

An interesting trend, I think she has something there.

She doesn't mention "Dead Like Me" which I loved. a terrific version of the everyday dead...the reapers' situation was simultaneously anxiety-producing and, in it's own way, mundane. They had weird boundaries that made sense somehow.
I guess it's true that there are more "mundane" versions of the dead in popular culture these days then before, but I don't think that's about domesticating the notion of death.

It's because these shows (like Buffy) aren't really about death and the dead at all; they're about the living. and by that, I don't mean the living characters are the center of the stories (just the opposite!). I mean that the dead characters are standing in for parts of the living human experience - usually some form of alienation or otherness.
Yeah, true Septimus, the undead are a metaphorical tool for exploring the human condition. It's a bit like pointing at Spock and saying "Look, aren't aliens starting to look just like us". Surely the point isn't that he's an alien, the point is that he's us but not-us enough to expose our us-ness. He's outside looking in, just as most of these mundanely undead characters are.

The article glances off an interesting point though IMO in that it used to be a sci-fi framework that our explorations hung on and now it's often supernatural. I dunno if that's purely just the way things have gone (i.e. it's arbitrarily the "next big thing") or whether it reflects changing attitudes to knowledge and/or science.

The temporarily undead of "Pushing Daisies" all seem to have been on "pause" they've experienced nothing since the moment each was murdered.

Once Ned, the crime-solving pie maker, renders them dead again, we can only assume they're trapped forever in that nothingness. In the end, that may be the scariest death of all.

Yes, cos not experiencing anything or even realising that time's passing is a really horrible experience. Either that or, y'know, you don't experience anything.
To some extent the tendency to use a supernatural versus a science-fictional versus any other framework has gone thru cycles, altho with our current separating niches it seems evry possible framework is going to be permanent. Imena, the late 60s had a *lot* of s-f-, not just Trek but Lost in Space Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Land of the Giants Time Tunnel The Wild Wild west etc. On the other hand,t he early 70s were ultra-mundane; look at how the monsters int he first run of Scooby-doo cartoons were never real and how carefully shows like The Six Million Dollar Man The Immortal The Incredible Hulk etc. avoided anything mysterious beyond their main premise. (I like to think Vampire and The Phoneix might not have failed if they'd been a single show, sicne the same actor played the villain in both :-).)

Seriously, and admit it, anyone whow as a "monster kid" imagined what it would be like for a monster to be in all other ways just plain folks? (Se Peter S. Beagle's "Come, Lady Death" for a lit'r'ry example.) We knew this had to be coming and heck the Whedonverse was a whistle-stop along the way.
Does anyone remember a short-lived sitcom starring Eric Idle and Stuart Pankin? Idle and some lady had died and were ghosts inhabiting their house when Pankin and family (complete with crotchety father-in-law moved in. I still remember some of the theme:

"Who could ignore
When a family of four
Is running amok in our home?

They're constantly near us.
They can't see nor hear us.
Nobody can,
Except the old man.

Halway to Hades,
We're pushing up daisies.
And halfway to heaven above.
Nothing like being in love, we're

Nearly departed."
In joke in "Pushing Daisies".
In last weeks episode, Ned arrives at a business pretending to have been sent by the "Happy Times" temp agency - which is where George works in "Dead Like Me". (A show I loved...)
Both Bryan Fuller shows.
Both quirky shows about death.
swanjun : Yes, the title was NEarly Departed. The ghost thign was the hook but the real joke was how annoying Pankin and wife Wendie Schaal and their chidlren were while the ghosts were so prissy. Character actor Henderson Forsythe played the old man who could see them since he was also close to death except from the opposite direction.

I ahd an idea when iw as a teenager for a story about a vampire named Jonathan who was alarmingly normal and even domestic in other ways. Kind of like the Chris Sarandon character in Fright Night or Edward Herrmann in The Lost Boys. So yes, this was,a s I said above, fairly inevitable.

Basically the Munsters or The Addams Family but without the overt comedy angle.

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