Thursday, December 23, 2010

Over the Edge - humor and death

Just in time for the solstice season, I will digress and talk about "gallows humour".

Death cannot exist without humour. How else could people cope with probably the most traumatic of life's processes? Dark fatalistic humour contrasts with the seemingly innocent references to death as a character, a cartoon figure that we all love to laugh about, yet fear.

Taxidermy is the first victim to the twisted humour of many because it is such an easy stand-in for our own fragile mortality.

Although it can go so terribly wrong, it can also be quite interesting and even elegant: like this computer mouse.

Or it can be silly and even creepy:

And creepier still, when you create a reversable dog/cat. Who would actually want this???
[Click on the image below to animate it.]

See how far it can go when taxidermy is used to sell beer bottles at exorbitant prices.

So we try to deal with death in ways that are irreverent, silly and macabre. But does this really help us in the long run? Even the origins of childhood's animation empire, Disney, used death in an irreverent and humorous way. Here's a video of  Walt Disney's La Danza Macabra: The Skeleton Dance from 1929.

A single cartoon image is still probably the best way to address mortality in funny yet pithy ways. Some of my favourite Bizarro cartoons over the years have been about death. The following are but a few examples, plus others from various cartoonists. [Please forgive me if I do not have the right to show these here. They can be removed immediately upon request.]

Happy Holidays, everyone. Have a safe and Joyous New Year, too.

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