Saturday, October 28, 2006

Soapy demises

Lots of death stuff in the British TV soaps over the past week, or 'continuing dramas' as they are sometimes more grandly called. No challenging storylines, but good dramatised reflections of current popular debates about death...good to watch when you need a break from doing serious PhD work (it's amazing how you can justify almost anything as research-related if you try...)

EastEnders (BBC): Johnny Allen's death. London-based East End gangster died from heart attack. Should have had a grand East End style funeral 'send-off', to show how much everyone loved him - grandeur and conspicuous consumption in working-class funeral styles is often equated with family tradition, and showing publicly how much people care... but everyone hated him, in true soap-style, so that didn't happen.

Coronation Street (ITV): Fred the local butcher died, also from a heart attack. Interesting to watch the family arguing over what to do with his happens in real life. It was the usual thing about who 'owns' the remains and gets to decide their 'final resting place' - the family, with recognised next-of-kin rights, or the fiancee? She was almost Mrs Fred, but as he died on the way to his wedding, she had no real legal claim over the remains, because the marriage contract was never actually completed.

Also interesting to watch the way people regard ashes - do they embody something of the person when alive, and if so, what? Bev, the fiancee barmaid, seemed to think so when she popped the ash-filled urn up on the bar in the local pub, so (dead) Fred could 'have a drink' with the regulars... just as if he was alive. She certainly horrified the customers that night... Perhaps being there in spirit is enough, whether one's 'spirit' is embodied in a pot of ashes or in different, less tangible forms in people's memories...

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