Death & Narratives

Death in narratives will always be challenging to the director or author who chooses to conduct such a scene. I myself have struggled with what to depict as ‘the Afterlife’ in my own stories. It’s something that religion has helped give a human glimpse of, although none will ever be accurate due to the sheer reality that we do not know what happens when we die.

In film, death is nearly always surrounded with bright colours, mostly white, unless looking at a darker ‘Hellish’ version of death where we are brought darker colours, mainly black. Death is something we as mortals cannot comprehend, but also something that has now become cliché because we have the same underlying theme whether it’s in narrative or film. It would be so refreshing to see a whole new side to death – something ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ did really well with Gamora’s death, although still slightly cliché with her becoming a child.

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For one, why do mothers and fathers see their death children in their perfect youth, even if they died at 80? In Spiderwick it really annoyed me because what gives you the idea that that’s what happens? Even so, how would others in the afterlife recognise you if they haven’t met you when you were a child? Or are we to assume that each soul sees the other at another age? Disney actually addresses this slightly with ‘Coco’, where Mama Coco passes away and her family, although youthful in their skeletal image, still recognise her – although now that I think about it, it could’ve just been a cinematic technique for audiences. Maybe I’m getting too technical, so let me just say this. Death is a terrifying concept, and that’s why narratives help us get through the damning reality that everything must die – breathing or not.

Now, for my next point, I know I will offend people although I do not intend to. Narratives with death give readers hope, just like religion. Hope, however, comes with the creeping reality of fear, which I find tends to creep closer the older we get. Religious narratives are therefore extremely well made in this fabrication of death as a fear – I admit, I do have a massive fear of death, to the point where I spiral into panic attacks when I think about it, however the best thing about narratives is their ability to fabricate logic with creative illusions of what reality could be.

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I read the other day that words are the only thing that do not die, and although correct, words can get lost. Losing narratives loses a way of life and history that provides a different concept of death, which is the death of human communication and creativity. Nowadays, thanks to technology, most people invest in film – why? Well, it’s faster than reading and gives visuals that may help the audience understand what’s going on, but what does that mean for us?

For one, we are limiting creativity to one aspect of society – those in high-ranking positions who are able to film. For writers, that means we are limited to a strict script with basic description. Creative freedom is dying because we are not motivated to do massive descriptions to help our audiences visualise their own world. All authors are teachers, and they show us not only a new perspective but a whole new world.

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Disney reference purely because Walt Disney is one of the greatest creators in history, but also the greatest thief. Let me explain: Walt Disney conformed narratives of different cultures into narratives for a global audience which, in turn, had him input his own perspective, stereotypes and opinions on such.

Does this mean I hate Disney? No, I very much enjoy the movies the company produces, but rarely do we hear about the original authors who may have created the idea – Hans Christian Anderson created ‘The Little Mermaid’ (originally ‘Den Lille Havfrue’), and I didn’t have any idea that he existed until recently. You knew? Oh good, here’s some more. Victor Hugo created ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’, and Aladdin is literally just part of old folk tales in the Middle East. Do we hear about these originals? Not unless you’ve done your research because Disney has given us a perspective that has grown overwhelmingly popular – great for authors who want to make money, but terrible in the sense that their original stories needed to change to get attention, all under a different name too. Narrative ‘thieves’ therefore lend to the death of an author’s reputation, and thus the ‘death’ of their own narratives as they are not getting the attention that they need to stay motivated to keep writing.

Sigh. Who knows what will even happen to my stories if ever I publish them.

If you want to help keep narratives alive, never stop reading. Much like memories, stories will live within the reader, you just have to turn the pages.


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