‘Just remember that death is not the end’: The Agency of the Dead in Popular Culture
Ruth Penfold-Mounce, University of York
The dead are inanimate body remains and to all intents and purposes, they lack power, control or a voice. They are a life that has ended. They have shifted from one state of being to another. But death is not that simple. The dead can, and do have agency despite their demise. They are able to influence and alter the world. Death, I will suggest is not the end. This presentation will focus on how popular cultural portrayals of the dead renders death accessible to consumers and I will explore how the dead, in their various forms, wield agency. Death in popular culture will be proposed as a dynamic realm from which the dead can engage the living, forming a morbid space where mortality can be explored, questioned and reimagined by scholar and layman alike. The concept of morbid sensibility is used to illustrate how individuals and society become open to deliberating mortality within popular culture. Drawing upon popular culture examples of the dead including the celebrity dead, organ transplantation mythology, the Undead (zombies and vampires), and the authentic dead, the multiple routes of influence exerted by representations of death will be examined. The dead may have travelled to the ‘undiscovered country’ but they can still be mobilised amongst the living.