Troubling Entanglements: Death, Loss and the Dead in and on Television

Michael-Fox, Bethan (2024). Troubling Entanglements: Death, Loss and the Dead in and on Television. In: Peterson, Jesse D.; Dekker, Natashe Lemos and Olson, Philip R. eds. Death's Social and Material Meaning Beyond the Human. Death and Culture. Bristol University Press (In Press).

Abstract

This chapter outlines several conceptual relationships between the medium of television and death and examines how one televisual text – the French supernatural drama Les Revenants (2012-2015) – functions to depict, explore and trouble a range of sociocultural ideas about death, loss, and the dead. Both the series and its medium raise significant questions about the power of the past and the agency of the dead, offering a popular cultural venue through which audiences can encounter ideas that challenge normative assumptions. By unpicking some of these entanglements, it is possible to explore different material-discursive meanings about mortality that popular cultural sources can expound. For example, concerns expressed in the series about climate death raise ethical questions about the role of media in environmental damage and may trouble audiences whose watching of it indirectly imbricates them in that damage. Given cultural texts are always configured in various ways and are then re-configured by audiences (always plural and always complex) whose own life experiences, hopes and material circumstances inform their engagement, a material-discursive analysis of both medium and text affords a method of unentangling some of the complexities of meaning that circulate in the sociocultural imaginary about death, loss and the dead.

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