Sunday, June 5, 2011

Facing Mortality in Life: Reflections on the TV Series Six Feet Under

Poster of "Six Feet Under" showing Claire Fisher's car on the highway

The critically acclaimed series Six Feet Under is not for the feeble, squeamish or the fainthearted. It looks death square in the eye and is not afraid of unearthing a plethora of human sentiments. It is both about life and death, how each are connected and how one influences and cannot live without the other.

Without giving away too many details, Six Feet Under is unique in that practically every episode starts with a death. This is not merely out of morbid pleasure or curiosity, but it almost always serves a purpose and links the episode in creative ways. The series is, however, not always dead serious, as just in real life, there are moments of grotesque humor even when it comes to death.

The Fisher family operating the funeral home is rather dysfunctional. They have been traumatized by the constant presence and smell of death in the funeral home, which has also served as their own home and living space. They are not in touch with their own feelings, the same way most of us either repress them or are ashamed of accepting or stating them. In other words, they are the representatives of most families out there.

The series has its focus on one family, but as in the real world, lives are not lived in isolation. Relationships may give joy and personal fulfillment, yet they are also fraught with pain, suffering and misunderstandings. Death haunts them as well. The same way our bodies mature and decay, relationships fall apart and fade into oblivion.

The characters are driven by sexuality, no more no less than the rest of us are, and they express their sexuality in different forms, notwithstanding age and orientation. Yet again even sexuality is not immune against the eternal cycle of life, death and rebirth.

I highly recommend this series because it brings us in touch with human aspects that are often regarded as taboo. Sex and death are so ingrained in the patterns of life that without them, life would not be even possible. Mental illness is a sad fact of existence.

We tend not to talk about those issues and pretend they do not exist. But sooner or later, we will have to face each in terms of conflicts and neuroses. In the meantime, Six Feet Under makes therapy a fun activity for the whole dysfunctional family and offers one of the most stunning endings in all of TV history!


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