On -isms: Death for Everybody!

By | Thursday, December 31, 2015 1 comment
You ever notice how the living embodiment of Death seems to be a more recurring theme both around Halloween and towards the end of the year? Here's some recent comics featuring Death...

Mother Goose & Grimm


Strange Brew

Mary Death

I suppose it makes sense in a way with the year ending. That Sinfest piece in particular is a recurring motif with the strip, where Death hunts down the old year in kind of a Logan's Run style.

But here's the interesting thing: while the Old Year is almost always depicted as an old bearded white guy, Death is just a skeleton in a robe. No skin color, no gender, no sexual orientation. (Obviously, I'm talking contemporary Western depictions primarily.)

The notion of using a skeleton to represent Death makes sense beyond just our culture. After a body dies, the flesh decays away, leaving only a skeleton. There's nothing left recognizable from the original person. And given that everybody's skeleton looks pretty much the same, it's not at all a far leap to start using that as a symbol of Death itself.

But that's the bit I don't think many people think about either. Everybody's skeleton looks pretty much the same. You strip away the skin color, the visibly obvious gender markers, the outward characteristics of sexual orientation, everyone is the same. We're all built the same way.

I mean, you know this, of course. But there's a disconnect a lot of people seem to have when you add that superficial stuff on top. Not everyone recognizes it as the same as using the same blueprints and materials to build two houses, and then just painting them different colors.

And yet, we see Death being depicted as that framework all the time. I wonder if, the next time you come across a comic like these featuring Death, you make an "offhand" comment to whoever happens to be nearby -- something like, "Hey, you ever realize that because Death is shown as a skeleton, he represents everybody? He doesn't have skin or muscle, so he could be you or me or that Black guy up the road or that Asian woman over there or..? Funny how we're all exactly the same underneath a bit of skin, but people still think you're more inclined to violence if your skin is just a little darker."

I have no idea if that would work, or even get people to think a bit more, but it's worth a shot, isn't it?
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Anony*Mouse said...

"seems to be a more recurring theme both around Halloween and towards the end of the year?"

Certainly not to diminish the point you make later (If the fact that we are all far more alike than we are different was more widely understood, we'd have a way better world), but I think Death is a recurring character because the artists are aware they are working on comic strips in print publications. ;-)

Okay, actually half webcomics, but the fact that Sinfest debuted in a student newspaper and Mary Death has death in the title, I think it still works for the purposes of my joke.