I am doing my presentation on Saturday about When Death Goes Pop -- with a curriculum for a college-level course that brings in clips from Hollywood films (comedies and dramas) and documenatry films based on books about such things as near death experiences, and very popular television shows that touch on issues related to survival of human consciousness after death.
Some great films that look at this are "Defending Your Life" with Albert Brooks, "Beetlejuice" -- the scene when they realize they are dead and are reading from the Handbook for the Recently Deceased, "My Girl" --in which Macauley Culkin dies from bee stings, and "Sixth Sense," among many others (Ghost Busters, Poltergeist, the Exorcist, to name a few).
Television shows that either incorporate these ideas include "Medium," "Ghost Whisperer" "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "X Files" or the cable TV shows of "Ghost Hunters," "Cross Country with John Edward," and "Lisa Williams: Life Among the Dead."
These programs make for a great discussion about the topics of death and the afterlife, along with writings about that. Death is the current taboo subject that people avoid talking about -- you know more about people's sex lives than their ideas on death -- so media seems to be the place where it is presented. Even South Park -- where Kenny dies every week, and then it is all erased in the next episode. What does that mean?
What an interesting post! I would love to know how your presentation and exploration of your final project were met and reflected upon by our colleagues last Saturday. When I read you were considering television shows in addition to filmic works, reality television shows were the first genre of television that occurred to me, particularly Survivor, currently in its eighteenth season. I wonder if you might be able to analyze the premise of Survivor as innately about life versus death, and as a show of "testings" for its human participants that often lead them towards physical or psychological "near-death" and traumatic experience.
You mention that since death is a taboo area in social arenas, "media seems to be the place where it is presented". I find this commentary very interesting. Is your sense that media oversees a greater social freedom through which to explore issues that are considered taboo in other life-social spaces? As global and local communication becomes more "mediatized" (i.e. text messages instead of voice conversations; email exchange instead of face-to-face meeting with colleagues for professional or scholastic work) I wonder how this might affect and possibly rework content areas of legitimacy in communication. Perhaps the increasing lack of face-to-face contact could be perceived as a less intimidating (and more inviting) forum for some individuals to breach certain areas of conversation. It might be interesting in your project, if relevant to the work you are doing, to study what is lost and what is gained through the network of media versus interpersonal interaction, in discussing areas such as human survival and death.
Best wishes for your project, and I look forward to reading it when you post it!