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The Undead - Research Paper Example

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This paper focuses on the comparison between portrayals of ghosts in popular media, versus the renderings or portrayals of ghosts in American culture. It is to be noted that the two are not exclusive, if one takes the perspective of current popular media being aspects of…
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The Undead Table of Contents Popular Media Portrayals of Ghosts versus American Cultural Ghost Renderings 3 References 6 Popular Media Portrayals of Ghosts versus American Cultural Ghost Renderings
This paper focuses on the comparison between portrayals of ghosts in popular media, versus the renderings or portrayals of ghosts in American culture. It is to be noted that the two are not exclusive, if one takes the perspective of current popular media being aspects of American culture in general. A very keen observation on American cultural portrayal of ghosts notes that ghost stories, as they are told orally, are seldom focused on the paranormal aspects, but rather on the indeterminate nature of the sightings and experiences. The paranormal events themselves are only moderate and somewhat ambiguous, and the emphasis is on those telling the stories and experiencing them being not really sure whether they encountered ghosts with dead certainty (Goldstein, Greider, and Thomas, 2007, pp. 29-31):
The drama comes from the subject matter and the manner in which people tell the stories rather than from the extraordinary behavior of the supernatural beings. In the oral tradition, people commonly report merely feeling some type of “presence”, a cold feeling in the room, or strange noises and nothing more” (Goldstein, Greider and Thomas, 2007, p. 29).
The same observation is made with regard to the subtle and ambiguous reality of ghosts as they are rendered in American culture. The take is that in American culture, the reality is something that cannot be fixed with the certainty of fact, but is embedded within the hazy and deliberately ambiguous stories that people tell each other when they relate their experiences about ghosts. This is the case, for instance, in observations of how ghosts are portrayed in American literature that represents the best of American culture through the ages (Lewis, 2005, pp. 33-34):
James thus poses, in somewhat clumsy form, the sorts of questions that will bedevil interpreters of his later ghost stories. Was the fathers death a natural result of his anxiety over the fake haunting, or did the narrators tearing of the daughters veil somehow, supernaturally, cause it?... Jamess refusal to answer these questions provides an early example of the workings of what I shall call “shared fictions” in his later ghost stories (Lewis, 2005, p. 34).
Apart from these American cultural artifacts there are also insights to be gleaned in cultural renderings of ghosts in America as they pertain to the conceptions of ghosts reflected in rituals involving the dead and involving ghosts in general, such as Halloween. In Halloween conceptions of ghosts, they are lumped together with witches who have evil intentions on the living, and are pacified with food, or else scared with fire, and in general mimicked and converted into purveyors of commercial interests, in a holiday spirit. Meanwhile, even in celebrations tied to Halloween, ghosts are portrayed and find use in ghost stories that young adults tell each other as part of the ritual attached to this holiday celebration as well. The idea is that in cultural renderings of ghosts in America, they serve otherwise utilitarian purposes, as part of rituals to fulfill some psychic need in adolescents to tell stories about them, and in the manner as described earlier- vague and uncertain stories about experiences that hint at the presence of ghosts, without the need for really overt and verifiable events that involve ghosts and apparitions with absolute certainty. As can be deduced from the stylized representations of ghosts during the Halloween season, in American culture renderings of ghosts lack substance, or else are mocked and made fun of in the spirit of a celebration for children and young adults, not to be considered as part of serious adult considerations at all (Belk, 1990).
In contrast, renderings or portrayals of ghosts in popular media are more explicit, graphic, and in your face, without any trace of ambiguity at all, but rather represented as a reality that impinges on and affects the reality of people. In popular media, such as films, ghosts affect people and inhabit the same plane. They are not peripheral as in cultural renderings discussed above, the stuff of campfire stories, Halloween rituals, and speculations, but rather realities that can interfere with the human world, and sometimes cause havoc and even death. Without recourse to the literature, one can recall immediately popular movies where this assertion holds. “The Sixth Sense” is an example of ghosts being in the same reality as people who are alive, and interfering with normal living. They are not in the periphery at all, not in the shadows, but front and center, interacting with those who are alive. In older mass media, the literature recounts how the mass media and Hollywood treated with much fanfare and sensationalism the events surrounding the story of the Amityville house hauntings. The press in general covered the story and the movies extensively. Meanwhile, the movies that sprouted from the accounts, including “The Amityville Horror” and “The Exorcist”, likewise diverge radically from the muted treatment of ghosts in American culture, and go ahead and portray ghosts in a sensational, realist manner, with no ambiguity whatsoever as to their reality and their ability to wreak havoc on the world of the living, There is a function of movie depictions of ghosts, as discussed in the literature, that seem to transcend the traditional function of ghosts in more conservative American cultural artifacts, such as more dated literature, as well as in the oral stories that still go around during ritual celebrations of the dead. These diverging functions can be a cause of the differences in the treatment of ghosts for the two (Goldstein, Greider, and Thomas, 2007, pp. 32-34)/
Belk, R. (1990). Halloween: an Evolving American Consumption Ritual. Advances in Consumer Research 17. Retrieved from
Goldstein, D., Grider, S., and Thomas, J. (2007). Haunting Experiences. Utah University Press Retrieved from
Lewis, L. (2005). The Reality of the Unseen: Shared Fictions and Religious Experience in the Ghost Stories of Henry James. The Arizona Quarterly 61 (2) Retrieved from Read More
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