Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Nige beat me to a post on this story. And, of course, he's right, the moment of death has become a taboo. This was first identified in 1955 by Geoffrey Gorer in his essay The Pornography of Death. Gorer compared our queasiness about death with the queasiness of Victorians about sex. This was taken up by the great Philippe Aries in his book The Hour of Our Death. It's obvious that the reaction to the TV show betrays a fear of exposing what should not be exposed, that seeing death is, somehow, unhealthy. But, as Aries shows, watching death was once see as very healthy, indeed edifying. The good death used to mean passing away in full awareness, your affairs - spiritual and worldly - in order and your family at your bedside. Obviously this is not quite the same as dying on prime time, but is that just the way we do it now? I wouldn't want to die on TV, but I'm not that worried about watching somebody else do it. Either way, you're not going to live to regret it.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 11:41 am