Abject and Liminal Bodies : The Dead Body in CSI: Miami and Six Feet Under
This study researches fictional representations of dead bodies in two television series in which representations of dead bodies are prominent features. The study introduces a brief history of the human body as a societal metaphor. The narrower theme of the study, the dead body as a cultural surface and carrier of meaning and ritual potential, is discussed through specific popular cultural television productions.
The two television series discussed in this study, CSI: Miami and Six Feet Under, are researched both through film analyses and focus group discussions. The film analyses have aimedto show to what use dead bodies are put in the narratives of the programs. The focus group discussions have sought to shed light on the audiences understanding of the meaning of the dead body, and also how this feature of the programs influence the audience and their experience of the programs.
The study shows that both series introduce and underline dead bodies as floating in-between subject and object status. A dead person is often introduced as a subject and then stripped of his or her cultural identity and reintroduced as an object or as having an uncertain cultural status which lies somewhere between object and subject. This borderline status of the body serves as a threat in the series, and the subject status of the body is reinstated in every case possible. Order is a central concept for the study and both series strive to reassert and maintain order, either in relationships or on a societal level. The reinstatement of order is reflected on the physical body as a metaphor and narrative device in both series. The reestablishment of the subject status of a dead body is part of this strive for order. The audience research concludes that all focus group members agree that the representations of dead bodies in the programs are important for their experience of the programs. Some find them unpleasant while others think they are interesting. The audience also listed several other themes of the programs which they found important. The representations of dead bodies strike the audience members both as “real” and material, and as metaphors.
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