Dead Chatty: The Rise of the Articulate Undead in Popular Culture

Michael-Fox, Bethan (2020). Dead Chatty: The Rise of the Articulate Undead in Popular Culture. In: Coward-Gibbs, Matt ed. Death, Culture & Leisure: Playing Dead. Emerald Studies in Death and Culture. Bingley: Emerald, pp. 111–124.




This chapter offers a critical reading of a range of television narratives centred on diverse populations of the articulate dead, including grim reapers (Dead Like Me), sort-of-ghosts (American Horror Story), zombies (iZombie), what appear to be ‘just regular dead people’ (The Good Place, Les Revenants) and some other creepy and unusual manifestations of the undead (Intruders, The Fades). It suggests that the preponderance of the articulate dead on television is symptomatic of a broader cultural desire to talk both about death and with the dead. It also suggests that there are numerous opportunities to learn from fictional engagement with death and the dead, foregrounding the ways in which televisual narratives can operate to reiterate, critique and engage with social and cultural messages. The chapter takes a playful approach and seeks to distil some key ‘self-help’ aphorisms that the dead in these series might offer the living about how to approach life, death and everything in between, as they tell their audiences to ‘look within’ to identify the greatest threats to their selfhood, to persevere because ‘it’s never too late to change’, and to ‘never forget’ the dead and what they might have scarified for the living.

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