Tag Archives: mortality

Celebrity Mortality and Actual Emotion


New Avengers #1 (Vol. 5). Written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Steve Epting.

Yesterday morning it was announced that British actor Alan Rickman had passed away from cancer. At the very beginning of this week it was revealed that musician David Bowie has suffered the same fate. As social media was filled with mournful statuses and 140 character eulogies I couldn’t help but be drawn back to a post I wrote almost three and a half years ago called “Celebrity Mortality and Actual Loss”.

In it I drew a comparison between Michael Clarke Duncan, and other such famous people who had died within the past month or so, and my grandmother, who breathed her last in the ICU of a Toronto hospital just the day before. When rereading it in preparation for this post it was impossible to ignore the bitterness that lay right beneath the surface, the pain still so fresh from the loss I had just experienced.

It’s been a while since then, long enough for the years to dull the hurt and extinguish any anger I might have once felt towards a world that appeared to haphazardly allocate its sorrow. Now, years later, my Facebook feed filled with dozens of Ground Controls hailing Major Tom, I find myself on the opposite side of the spectrum, feet terrifyingly close to being planted firmly in indifference.

Which, understandably, makes it look like I’m not doing so hot on the scale of emotional maturity. Continue reading

I’m Not Sad About Nelson Mandela Dying

Death, or the thought of death, has been on my mind as of late. Seriously, though, we’ve had two posts in just as many weeks on the demise of a cartoon character, and before that a CWC discussing funerals which was brought on by the passing of Gordon’s grandfather. There was also actor Paul Walker’s fatal car accident two weeks ago.

Which is why, in a way, the following status on Facebook yesterday didn’t really shock me:


There’s going to be a lot of Facebook in this post; you have been warned.

In part it’s because the fact that people do die has kind of been on my mind, but also because the last time I heard anything about Nelson Mandela he was in the hospital for lung problems. Naturally I was concerned about him and probably even prayed for the guy, but honestly no more than I put in a good word with the Lord for the homeless Chinese woman I saw begging yesterday [I had no change to give her, before you jump to the conclusion that I’m a prayer-over-action kind of person]. Continue reading

Culture War Correspondence: Funerals

Yeah, we’re not really gonna be using gifs for this one…

EVAN: Ladies and gentlemen, I realize that the intro to this feature is usually a fairly funny, light-hearted bit, but this time around we’re going to bring the tone way down, because our topic for the week is funerals.

I actually had no idea that we would even have a CWC due to Gordon not being around, but it turns out that his absence was due to the very thing we hope to discuss.

GORDON: Now this is something that Evan and I alike have some experience in. Last year, Evan lost one of his grandparents. Last week, I lost one of mine.

Just a few minutes ago, I got back from the funeral (well, technically it was a “viewing/visitation”- whether or not there’s a difference is something I hope we can cover), so today we’re going to be having a discussion on the subject of grieving, cultural depictions of mortality, and other such stuff. Continue reading

Coping with Cartoon Death

Cartoons are a complicated thing. For example, children’s cartoon characters are required, in general, to always be wearing a seatbelt when in a vehicle. British TV character Peppa Pig was forced to wear one in all future episodes once parents raised concern about safety [the first few episodes would also be reanimated to reflect the change].

The presence of tobacco is yet another issue. In the upcoming DC animated movie “Superman vs. The Elite” British antihero Manchester Black is portrayed without his customary cigarette hanging from his lips. As you can see by the images to the right, it has been replaced by a matchstick.

What I’m slowly trying to get to is death in cartoons, and how it’s handled. The reason that this post didn’t go up yesterday was that I was powering through an entire season of “The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.” While I was watching the show, however, the same thought kept running through my mind: so many people just died.

Large fight scenes abound in the show as the Avengers battle to save New York City and the world, and collateral damage abounds. Skyscrapers fall and cars are thrown around, often with the implication that there are indeed people inside. A movie can be rated PG-13 for “sci-fi destruction and violence,” and I wonder how the show would stand up to the MPAA’s standards.

Similarly, in Pixar’s “The Incredibles” it is very strongly implied [though never outright seen/stated] that people, specifically Syndrome’s henchmen, die. There is a scene where Dash fights one of these goons and causes him to crash his vehicle into a cliffside. The result is a fiery explosion. From what I could tell the first few times I saw the movie, the man had definitely perished in the blast. Out of curiosity, however, I watched it again yesterday at half the speed.

As you can see, there is a brief second where a piece of debris can be glimpsed that could maybe be interpreted as some sort of escape pod. I sincerely doubt it, though. And this causes me to wonder how Pixar managed to get away with it, and how exactly the rules can be bent. In the scene pictured above a ten-year-old boy is the cause of a man’s death. Is that something worth considering, would children even notice or be bothered by it?

Death in cartoons has always been a very important event. Primary antagonists are normally relegated to some sort of dramatic end, and Disney movies are a fine example of this. Gaston [Beauty and the Beast] plummets to his death in a gorge, Clayton [Tarzan] ends up hanging himself from vines, and Commander Rourke [Atlantis: The Lost Empire] is turned into crystal and ends up shattering after hitting the fan of a hot air balloon. Their henchmen are, by and large, simply knocked out, oftentimes in a comical manner.

The question I’m trying to ask is whether or not we should continue to uphold the concept of death as this sacred thing in cartoons. Does a henchman’s demise deserve any kind of gravitas, or should he die in the first place? How much credit do we give children to understand what is happening when a character dies on screen? I can’t say that I have the answers, but becoming a parent will probably force me to find out.