Televised Death

| April 29, 2014

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Among the ironies of the modern age is this: most of us have much less personal experience with death than did our grandparents, but most of us have seen more "deaths" than our grandparents. How is this possible? Television! The regular fare of TV includes murders, suicides, and stories of fatal illnesses — some fictionalized in TV dramas, others covered in excruciating detail on the news. For most of us TV is where we learn about death. But what do we learn?
In order to explore the world of TV death watch three hours of television. But not just any three hours! Watch 1 hour of news, 1 hour of drama, and 1 hour of cartoons. Because there is not time enough to do a complete survey of television programming, you must choose shows where a death will occur or is described/reported. This will be no problem on news shows, but you must be selective on dramas (i.e. NCIS will probably have a death involved) and cartoons (i.e. avoid the "Care Bears"). If you do not find what you need in your first attempt, you need to keep looking/watching (not a hardship for people who love TV, but don’t wait until the last minute to find a show to watch)!
For cartoons, you may also use an American animated film (ex. Bambi, the Lion King, etc.), although if you choose to do so, you must watch the whole film.
Begin by SUMMARIZING the deaths shown, answering the questions “who, what, when, where, how, and why.” For example, explain how they occurred, how they were portrayed, the reactions of those around, etc. Do NOT waste time and paper space on typing a blow-by-blow description of what you watched. You might want to take extensive notes to refer to for when you start writing, but I don’t want the verbatim scripts.
Next, COMPARE AND CONTRAST the portrayal of death in each medium — news, drama, cartoon. You must give equal space to the three types of media – e.g., do not spend more time analyzing cartoons!
Then, COMPARE AND CONTRAST what you’ve seen with what you are learning about death in your class materials, with your personal experience of death, and information from a scholarly website (NOT Wikipedia).
Finally, CONCLUDE by providing some social analysis of TV death. At a minimum, address:
• Which channels show more death (networks, independents, PBS)? Why do you think this is so? Support your contentions.
• What types of programs (popular with which social classes) deal with death?
• Who are the targeted audiences for the shows you watched? Does treatment of death vary with targeted audiences? Why or why not? Support your contentions.
• Describe and explain the relationships between sponsors and the treatment of death. Support your contentions.
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Category: Humanities

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