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The Jovial Aesthetics of the Death-Positivity Movement: Notes on the Appeal of Playfulness in Activism

Death, Culture & Leisure: Playing Dead

ISBN: 978-1-83909-038-7, eISBN: 978-1-83909-037-0

Publication date: 20 August 2020

Abstract

The death-positive movement can be described as a de-centralised contemporary social movement originating and operating predominantly in the global West, specifically the United States, connecting death workers, educators, artists, journalists, etc., and geared towards encouraging open dialogue about death and dying. It has succeeded in capturing significant media attention over the last few years and is largely driven by its strong social media presence. This chapter looks at ‘playfulness’ within the death-positive movement. Examining the dimension of ‘playfulness’ addresses the affective aspect of communication that in this movement is inseparable from the message. First, the author investigates the aesthetics of representation through death-positive merchandise, produced and advertised by The Order of the Good Death’s (subsequently – The Order) core members. Second, the author considers some of the cultural output produced under the umbrella of death-positivity, but not by the core movement members, specifically taking the first video game to be explicitly marketed as death-positive – A Mortician’s Tale (Laundry Bear Games, 2017) as a case study. Finally, the author analyses the role of entertainment value in the movement’s leaders’ discourse on death, taking leader of The Order Caitlin Doughty’s playful rhetoric on her YouTube channel, Twitter profile, and Instagram pages. The manifesto, found on the movement’s official website (http://www.orderofthegooddeath.com/) encourages its participants to break the ‘culture of silence’ around death, indicating that the whole premise of the movement is based on the supposed presence of death denial in Western countries. Ultimately, the author argues that by eliciting playfulness, this challenge to the social climate becomes a somewhat jovial and enjoyable endeavour and generates response from outside the movement.

Keywords

Citation

Zibaite, S. (2020), "The Jovial Aesthetics of the Death-Positivity Movement: Notes on the Appeal of Playfulness in Activism", Coward-Gibbs, M. (Ed.) Death, Culture & Leisure: Playing Dead (Emerald Studies in Death and Culture), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 157-172. https://doi.org/10.1108/978-1-83909-037-020201018

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020 Solveiga Zibaite