Philippe Aries described the transition to Forbidden Death as an “unheard-of- phenomenon. Death, so omnipresent in the past that it was familiar, would be effaced, would disappear. It would be shameful and forbidden”. It had started in North America and had slowly migrated to Europe. It first started when loved one would avoid telling the dying person that they were actually dying to spare them that terrible news. People started to think that it was best that everyone avoid death and the unbearable emotions that came with it. But it was not until 1930-1950 where hinges rapidly changed; the displace of the site of death.
People started to die in the hospitals rather than their own homes. Hospitals become a place for the sick, a place where people were healed, rather than a place for the poor. Death was in the hands of science, Just like in the movie Hereafter Marie went to Switzerland to find answers to her near-death experience from a specialist in that field. She did not understand her experience so she turned to an expert, thinking that they would know what happened to her. Philippe Aries had explained in his book, “Western Attitudes toward Death” that here are four different eras on how people viewed death throughout history.
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It begins from the 12th century up to the 20th century. The four eras are Tamed Death, Death of Self, Thy Death, and Forbidden Death. But in this essay we will be focusing on Forbidden Death, since it is well portrayed in the movie hereafter. According to Aries “Forbidden Death”, was the era when death was portrayed as dirty and shameful, something that interferes with our lives. Death is left up to the experts, the dying no longer stay at home but are transferred to hospitals. No one liked to talk about death because it made people feel uncomfortable.
Death was looked as a “technical failure” and people were no longer dying in their homes but at hospitals. They left the professionals take care of the dying. The dying and the bereaved are isolated and children are excluded from the dying because it’s considered “protecting” the children. The film, hereafter shows the story of three main characters who were experiencing death in different ways. This movie’s attitude toward death illuminated Aries explanation of Forbidden Death. In the movie George is a man who had the ability to have a connection with the dead.
In Paris a woman who faced a near-death experience and a little boy named Marcus who was dealing with the recent death of his brother. George Longhand had a gift in which he could talk to the dead. He made a business off it and then left cause he thought of it has a curse. He said, “A life all about death is no life at all”, after leaving the business he wanted nothing to do with it at all. Just like as Aries explained Forbidden Death as shameful and forbidden, George did not like to talk about his gift. Throughout the movie, it portrays the struggles George goes through trying to hide his gift from everyone.
In the movie, George had refused to take anyone’s “readings” numerous times because he did not business but George did not want to. George isolated himself from the world because he felt as if his gift got in the way of having a normal relationship with anyone. Aries had explained that people wanted to avoid death because it got in the way of having a normal and happy life, Just like it was portrayed in Hereafter. Aries had said that death in modern time was viewed ugly, viewed as a failure and made people uncomfortable. No one wanted to talk about death.
George was very isolated with the world, he had tried his best to avoid any physical contact with anyone. Another example illuminating Aries Forbidden Death would be the character Marcus and how he coped with his brother’s death. Marcus was a little boy so death was not probably something he fully understood. No one talked to Marcus or helped him grieve his brother’s death. Aries had explained that emotions must be avoided tooth in the hospital and the society. The only time that was appropriate to grieve was in private, when you were alone. P. 89) in the movie, Marcus hardly showed any emotions, he was rather emotionless. His mom was a drug addict, she could not even help herself let alone help her son. His foster parents did not help him grieve or even just talk to him about the death either. They simply left him alone and gave him space to deal with the death. Just like Aries said, death was hidden. They did not try to talk to him about how he felt, so he went searching for answering through psychics, hoping that they can give him closure of his brother’s death.
Also Marie had a near-death experienced where it seemed like she had encountered the ‘in between’; the state between life and death. But she did not know how to make sense of her experience.. Just as Aries explained how sorrow does not inspire pity but instead repels people from you. It is a sign of mental instability. (p. 90) in the film Hereafter, Marries lover had viewed her experience as a malady. He had reacted to her as if what she was going through was some sort of illness and believed hat she would get better by taking some time to herself.
He encouraged her to take time off from work and focus on herself by writing a book. She could not seem to find a reason as to what happened to her so she turned to an expertise in that field to help her make sense of it all. She tried to find a scientific reason as to why what happened, happened to her because nothing else made sense. She then went to Switzerland to ask an expert in that field about what had happened to her. Just like Aries explained how death was in the hands of science, Marie thought that she could mind a scientific answer. P. 89) when she decided that she wanted to write a book about her near-death experience instead of biography about François Integrand, her work was not pleased. – (p. 94) Aries talks about how happiness is one of the moral duties and the social obligation to contribute to the collective happiness by avoiding any cause of sadness… Arise explains that somehow its obligated for the society to show happiness and to act as if they are happy all the toe and obviously death is not included in happiness. So avoiding death is acceptable.