I hardly ever pay homage or even refer to the guy that inspired this whole Of Opinions thing – Francis Bacon. Nope, not the twentieth century painter, but the Renaissance essayist. To be fair, all he and I have in common is a tendency to use ‘Of’ in the title, and that too was something I ripped off from him. But, he’s got many, many interesting things to say (though I’m more fun). Like, in his essay Of Death he writes:
MEN fear death, as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other.
That is so true. You wouldn’t bother so much about death, if it wasn’t around all the time. I prefer reading the news to watching the news. I don’t need to see some grainy footage to be appropriately disturbed by it. Seeing it in my imagination keeps me decently close and far. Horrible things happen, and I should know about them because they happen all around me. But, confronting them isn’t good for my sanity. Not everyone can take it, you know. I certainly can’t.
And so, I like to indulge in a bit of escapism now and then. Many of you know about the weird dreams I get from time to time. After a particularly bad one sometime last month, I decided to substitute dreamtime with primetime. Yes, I decided I’d make use of my dormant Amazon Prime subscription and watch some TV to give my brain some much needed relief. I clicked on Grey’s Anatomy, a popular, long-running show I knew nothing about except the popular character McDreamy, played by Patrick Dempsey.
Initially, it worked. I even had a PG-rated dream about McDreamy. It was a funny show, and though it is about surgery, and hence, there are deaths in nearly every episode, it also gives you the narrative mechanisms to cope with it. I wouldn’t call the episodes I’ve watched as preachy, but all that coping with the cruelties of life was handled rather well, and I’d even say can be applied to real life. A+ from me so far.
Until they killed my favourite character * spoiler alert * – George O’ Malley. With all that perfect McDreamy hair, I didn’t even realise how much I adored O’ Malley. I was truly devastated, as if a great injustice had been done to him.
Now, I’m used to the occasional TV death. I’m not good with them. It takes me absolute ages to watch a Doctor Who regeneration episode – in which they’ve been killing the main character since 1966, to replace him/her with a completely different actor – but, as long as I know it’s going to happen, I’m okay. It always feels more manipulative on TV than in film. Even in the age of unnecessary sequels, you can still not think too much about a character’s death. But, television makes use of your adaptive nature like no other. Because we’re all creatures of habit, we feel as though these make-believe people on that little screen (I watched it on my phone) would go on forever. Heck, I lived with George O’ Malley for only a couple of weeks. I feel bad for those who followed the show from its initial airing on TV.
I had to look up why they did this to the character, to the brilliant actor who played him – T. R. Knight. We’re not a gossip blog here (or for that matter, a TV blog), but man, they could make a show about what goes on behind that show. Sure, all successful shows have their problems behind the scenes, including Doctor Who, but Grey’s Anatomy has been rather unfortunate in having many of them come out in the public.
Still, they killed George. Which is spectacularly unfair.
They also killed Macaulay Culkin in My Girl, but there’s a difference. I actually hadn’t seen My Girl as a child, but over the years I kept hearing jokes about people of all ages being reduced to tears at his death in the film. I decided to see what the fuss is about. It’s the Home Alone kid, how sad can it be? Until, I was bawling my eyes out.
They always get the vulnerable ones. Not the weak ones. The vulnerable ones, who make you love them simply because of how guileless they are. You want to reach into the screen and protect them, because you root for them to survive in this cruel, cruel world. They remind you of the vulnerability in you, the parts you’ve learned to hide, which they bravely expose because they can’t help it. It is bravery indeed, all that embarrassment from living for your true feelings. How is that even possible? Until they remind you that it can’t happen. No wonder they kept calling O’ Malley Bambi from episode 1.
I was sad over this for a surprising number of days, in the age of unbelievable saturation in pop culture, which should appeal to my otherwise mercurial attention span. I’m currently watching another show I adore, but I’d like to steer clear of TV deaths for a while now. After all, I’ve never seen Game of Thrones. You can guess why.
What TV/Film deaths moved you the most? Did you ever watch Grey’s Anatomy?