Tone and Diction in The Scarlet Letter

Chapter 2 of the Scarlet Letter written by Nathaniel Hawthorne uses deep imagery and strong diction to set the tone for this chapter and subsequent chapters in the work. The setting of a prison yard in Puritan Boston is established quickly in the beginning of the chapter and the almost content eagerness the crowd in the prison yard had awaiting the execution “The grass-plot before the jail, in Prison Lane, on a certain summer morning, not less than two centuries ago was occupied by a pretty large number of inhabitants of Boston; all with their eyes intently fastened on the iron-clamped oaken door.” (Hawthorne 54). Strong, solid images of a prison yard are created from the simple phrase “iron-clamped oaken door.” (54) Hester Prynne, the woman standing accused is made a public spectacle and as Prynne “stood fully revealed before the crowd” ( 57) such diction is a strong indication for the humiliation and vulnerability facing all people who stood before a group of their peers before a public execution.

The diction used to describe the scarlet letter itself is artful and powerful, indicating the power the letter had in affecting how the public viewed Hester Prynne “It was so artistically done, with so much fertility and gorgeous luxuriance of fancy that it had all the effect of a last fitting decoration to the apparel which she wore…” (57). The scarlet letter itself was a fabled mark of Cain to Hester Prynne marking her sin and crime of adultery and the letter branding her unto death as an adulterer.

The last paragraph of chapter 2, Hester Prynne realizes the gravity of her situation after reminiscing on her childhood and past up until her arrival in Boston. “Could it be true? She clutched the child so fiercely to her breast, that it sent forth a cry; she turned her eyes downward at the scarlet letter, and even touched it with her finger, to assure herself that the infant and the same were real. Yes!-these were her realities-all else had, vanished.” (62) The quickness of the meter and the direct pauses create a sense of dread and urgency.

In conclusion the tone, diction and imagery in the second chapter of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter create a tone and setting of dread, misfortune and mounting regret through the use of solid imagery and diction help set the mood for this chapter and the remainder of the novel. Such methods have been used by authors for centuries to set stronger and more concrete settings and tones. The Scarlet Letter is filled with robust images and foreboding language to help set the overall mood of suspicion, regret and intolerance in Puritan Boston.


Works Cited

Hawthorne, Nathaniel, and Ross C. Murfin. The Scarlet Letter: Complete, Authoritative Text with Biographical, Historical, and Cultural Contexts, Critical History, and Essays from Contemporary Critical Perspectives. Boston, Mass. [u.a.: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2006. Print.

The Problem With Charm

“Charm was a scheme for making strangers like and trust a person immediately, no matter what the charmer had in mind.” ― Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions.png

We’ve dedicated a lot of words to discussing how framing, writing and other magic tricks can manipulate readers into liking characters they shouldn’t. And we’ve done so because I am clearly a villain and it’s important to understand my people. In all of these discussions, we’ve almost ignored one key aspect that can truly sell you on a bad guy: charm.

It’s what makes Negan from The Walking Dead  so damn good. He’s a sly bastard. You may have dated a guy (or several) like him. He’s positively exuding in a certain sort of energy that almost makes it okay that he’s for sure a murderer.  

And while I could have an entire blog just dedicated to charming villains (perhaps an anime tie-in or two, as well) I wanted to use this time to talk about one of my favorite directors: Quentin Tarantino and how he effectively mastered our brains into liking two of the worst possible people and I get to discuss two of my favorite movies of all time: Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained. Is this self-indulgent? Yes. Will you continue to join me for this ride? I certainly hope so.

We’ll start with what may be my favorite movie right under another Tarantino classic (the answer to number 1 is Kill Bill), Inglorious Basterds. This movie. This powerhouse of a movie centers around a group of Jewish-American soldiers during WWII who heroically (and in a blood-filled fever dream) fight against actual Nazis and aim to take out Hitler. It’s Tarantino at his best, having fun with an all-star cast and plenty of fake blood and glamour shots of feet. But this movie features one of the most charismatic bad guys in film in Hans Landa (expertly played by Christoph Waltz). Now, here’s the problem with Hans Landa: he’s just so fun to watch on screen. Each of his lines is fun and dripping with danger and Waltz chews up every scene he’s in. I’m leaving out a key detail which is that Colonel Hans Landa is a Nazi and this isn’t a euphemism, he’s an actual German soldier and a very proud one at that. He will tell you that he’s only doing his job when he has to perform violence. He will explain the “reasons” he is a racist and he will do so quite well. He will tout the experience of his fellow German soldiers and how proud he is of Germany and the leader he serves. And if you keep listening, you start to like him.  He’s fun when on screen, a damn near delight. He’s well-spoken, seems to know everything (which is scary) and when he’s excited about something; it’s damn near infectious: one of his last scenes where he marvels at his own use of the word “bingo” is a delight even though he is essentially holding our actual protagonists hostage. It’s a scene that I use a lot as a GIF set because it’s fun. Nazis shouldn’t be fun. Really, the entire movie has a tone problem with that but it’s Tarantino so most give him a past. Many of the German soldiers are more fleshed out characters than our actual protagonists and we spend a great deal of time with many German soldiers. We build a rapport with them so even though the movie is great about not rewarding them for being actual Nazis, we spend entirely too much time with them for there not to be a bond formed. It’s sad when Frederick Zoller dies at the end, we’ve spent so much time watching him woo a married woman. It’s sad when Wilhelm dies, he was a new father and a soldier who was doing his best. In this instance, it isn’t framing that wrongs us, it’s just the charisma of a great actor playing a terrible human being.

The best example of this is in our second example taken from a Tarantino movie: Calvin J. Candie. Oh, Mr. Candie. It’s really a shame that Jamie Foxx is so good in this film and he is still completely overshadowed by DiCaprio who really only appears in the last half of the entire film but the spotlight is on him as soon as he is on screen. That’s the power of DiCaprio. But in addition to a very charming man, Mr. Candie is also given some of the best lines in the damn film. He dresses well, is funny, is smarter than most of the antagonists of the film. He has a lovely plantation: CandieLand (yes, actually the name of the place) and almost all of those he “employs” (they are slaves) seem happier and better taken care of than the other slaves we’ve seen in Django Unchained. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The long and short of Django Unchained is a revenge fantasy centered around a slave named Django and his desire to get revenge on those who have wronged him. He teams up with a white dentist named King Schultz (not joking, this is a Tarantino movie so subtly be damned) who is played by Waltz (because he can only play German characters) and they go on doing what they can to disrupt the accepted reality that is slavery and to get back Django’s wife, Broomhilda (again, be damned subtly). Broomhilda had been sold off to Mr. Candie’s plantation which brings us back to our favorite Southern racist. Yes, I’m getting to that part. Calvin Candie is a slave-owner. He’s a racist. He’s every Southern stereotype wrapped up in a silk bow. And Tarantino does all he can to frame Candie as a bad guy. We first meet him running an illegal Fight Club with African slaves as bartering chips. He’s a monster who does not see the humanity in enslaved Africans. This is even more damaging because he uses rhetoric and “logic” (with the biggest possible quotes I can possibly generate). During Mr. Candie’s most powerful scene he explains quite plainly that he has every right to enslave Africans. To him and his “science” (again with giant quotes) of phrenology, they are lesser than he is. And he’s very quick to discuss just how strongly he feels about the whole slavery situation. And even though framing and his eventual death do highlight how awful Calvin Candie and the rest of his family is, DiCaprio is electric in this role. Hell, I miss him as a character as I watch the rest of the film: upon other watches I’ll tend to stop shortly after his character dies and then resume the film just to get to one more scene. And I should not miss a racist. I should not miss a slave owner. I should not miss Calvin Candie. But because of writing and a masterful performance: I do.

And this isn’t a problem Tarantino seems to have in other films. We don’t go through Kill Bill thinking Bill is in the right despite an excellent performance from David Carradine (rest in peace). We spend so much time with The Bride and we learn so much about her revenge mission that no matter how good the performances are in the movie, we hate every single obstacle in her way. The same can be said for Hateful Eight which is a very appropriate title because this movie is devoid of anyone you can empathize with.

Charm is a part of the wider framing of baddies discussion because of the way it hijacks the brain’s logic center and creates a false connection to objectively terrible characters. And we could do an entire post on this just talking about anime (because, really, that’s my wheelhouse and you do not want to get me on that soap box…[Unless, you want me to. Leave a comment if you’d like for there to be a follow up to this just talking about anime.]) Charm is used to make you like a bad character and even though the frame around that character may still tell you this character is bad, it’s hard to hate someone who is so confidently evil.

It’s summed up by a line Negan gives us in The Walking Dead:

“I just slid my dick down your throat. And you thanked me for it.”

That’s it. The blog post could just be that line but I would like ad revenue one of these days and the current algorithm doesn’t like the profanity. But it’s exactly that swagger that made me want to cosplay Negan. It was that exact confidence and bravado that made me want to build a bat and made me walk with a little more power in my step. The moment I put on that jacket and zipped up my boots, I felt strong despite knowing that fact that Negan is a monster and wanting to be like him means becoming a monster.

Charm makes Ozymandias seem like a normal business man in Watchmen. Charm makes a racist lovable. And charm makes a literal Nazi a rooted for hero.

Charm is a skill good actors should have and really does separate the good from the great. The performances mentioned in this post are masterful and some of my favorites of all time and that is what makes them so damn insidious.

 

When I Say “I’m Tired”

“Tired, tired with nothing, tired with everything, tired with the world’s weight he had never chosen to bear.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned.png

It wasn’t long after my birthday that Amber finally pressed me  further when I said that I was tired casually at brunch. It’s a response that I give often to the tedious question of “How are you?” and its variants. It’s a bit of a default response from me nowadays but the people that actually care about me that have noticed it. So I wanted to go over a few of the reasons why you’ve been hearing me say “I’m tired.” quite a bit.


It’s a Default Response

Typically, if I say “I’m tired.” I’m probably just avoiding answering the question of “How are you?” and its many disguises. I’m seldom intentionally trying to be rude with this answer (sometimes I am, see “catcalling” as an example) but I find it hard to be open with that question. Many people don’t want to hear that I may be a little sad because I miss my parents. Or that my day at work was long. Or that I’m really thinking about how a snake would hold a knife. It’s a means of protecting for the both of us, really. You don’t really want to know how I am if you don’t know the full leathery demon that I am. If you are, however, formally acquainted with my true casual swamp witch self then there may be other reasons why I’m saying “I’m tired.”


I Am Actually Tired

I have insomnia (likely caused by anxiety but we’ll get to that). I’m also anemic (thanks, endometriosis) and I’m not too proud to admit that I don’t always take great care of myself. My job is sedentary and occasionally I have a fickle appetite that means that dinner is Hawaiian sweet rolls and a dream. None of this likely helps the fact that I am truly an insomniac. That means there are plenty of nights that I just do not sleep. I take a fair amount of medication to make sure that I do sleep but every once in awhile, that fails me and I am up, awake and alert with my thoughts as the rest of the world sleeps. It is normally pretty easy to tell the difference, though, between being physically tired or emotionally tired. You can tell if I am actually tired by the size of the bags under my eyes: if I just look slightly puffy, probably did sleep some the night before. If you could, in fact, check my bags as luggage while flying, then I probably didn’t sleep and I would suggest not speaking or moving too quickly without dropping off tacos or coffee to appease me.


I Am Emotionally Tired (Because of Mental Health)

I am anxious. My thoughts can be oppressive and unkind. That means that emotionally, I am seldom allowed to rest. It means that oftentimes in my mind I hear mostly negative things about myself and mostly untrue things that my friends must certainly feel about me. My brain is always buzzing and that noise makes it very hard to really rest. I joke oftentimes that my panels are written at 3 A.M. and while that’s said in jest, sometimes it’s true. I do try to use the time I am awake with the owls to create and be creative but often times that just leaves me more tired. Being anxious on its own is a burden to carry but the way it affects my sleep schedule and clouds my mind is insidious. So even though I may have physically slept for several hours, most of it isn’t restorative or restful.


I Am Emotionally Tired (Because the World is a Hot Dumpster Fire)

While at Jo-Ann Fabrics not long ago, when asked “Why are you tired?” as a somewhat valid follow-up question from a questionably concerned cashier my response was thus:

“Ennui, malaise, the patriarchy, microaggressions, racismhomophobia, sexism…I can go on.”

She was satisfied with my answer or at least annoyed that I was flippant. But obnoxious response aside, I’m not entirely joking when I provide those as answers to the question of “Why are you tired?”

It’s exhausting having to go through day to day life being worried if someone is going hurt and/or kill me for being myself. And this is a feeling I have never had before in my life. I am from a remarkable amount of privilege and even though my life may not always be conventional, I’ve been never worried about someone hating me or hurting me because of who I am. This irrational (let’s be real, it’s pretty rational) fear is incredibly taxing and takes up more of my brain than I like admitting. And I’m a social media manager, I don’t have the luxury or ability to “just log off”; it is my job to stay connected. But all of it really is quite draining. It’s exhausting having to day in and day out hear catcalls and statements that either seek to qualify or quantify my level of blackness or whiteness. It’s exhausting looking at social media to see another mass shooting, another racially or gender/sex-based crime. It’s tiresome watching the president flail around and thus play chess with human lives. The world is a dumpster fire; the good news is we can recover from a dumpster fire but that doesn’t mean that the fumes and fallout are pleasant to enjoy while it burns.


I’m finally realizing just how often I say “I’m tired.” in day to day life. It’s not something I’m proud of. It’s a lazy verbal shorthand for a myriad of feelings. I can be more vulnerable. I’m pretty used to putting myself second while also always being afraid of putting too much on people so this is a clever little trick to give an answer without giving an answer: it defuses people who are asking either out of obligation or a shallow level of caring and it also builds a wall around me from having to answer to the people who actually do care about me.

I’ll try to be more careful with my words in the future: I’m a writer after all, I can do better.

 

AichiYume’s Facebook Page!

I finally did it. I finally made a Facebook page! This page will act as a central hub for panel videos, costume progress, costume work and more!

It’d mean the world to me if you gave it a “Like”.

https://www.facebook.com/AichiYumeProductions/

With Friends Like These

“Abandon the cultural myth that all female friendships must be bitchy, toxic, or competitive. This myth is like heels and purses — pretty but designed to SLOW women down.” ― Roxa

I’ve been one of the guys since as long as I could remember. High school was full of mostly platonic guy friends and the occasional male suitor; not to say I didn’t have female friends, I had many three that were close but the rest were simply rivals to non-existent potential relationships. College was some female friends which is especially funny considering that my alma mater was overwhelmingly female. But like many things patriarchal, it was never encouraged for me to make friends with females. Female friends would only steal your man and waste your time with duplicitous lies and incessant neediness. This is what society taught me. That to be friends with females was to be in a Mean Girls-style girl gang full of cackling she-devils.

It took me well into my 20s to learn that I couldn’t be more wrong.

The shift did technically start in college. I was surrounded by my anime club members (who were mostly female) and other close friends that helped support me from my high points to my low. It was my girl friends who kept me sane and my senpais (who are all female) that gave me someone to look up to and aspire to be like.

It was post-grad that I separated from many of my female friends. We tried to stay in touch and the ones that still matter to me, did. But post-grad I fell more into the folds of the LGBT community and to put it bluntly, there’s a fair amount of misogyny in the gay community and the most important show to me during that time was RuPaul’s Drag Race, which is essentially (at least for most seasons) 10 or so gay men ranting about how awful biological females are while trying to be better women than biological females with just a hint of casual racism and transphobia sprinkled in for good measure.

Pop culture is also full of vapid female groupings that emphasize a very specific type of female friendship. The Ashleys from Recess (yes, I’m old) come to mind of just a gaggle of gossipy gals. Additionally, because of the patriarchy, it was always an asset for me to be “one of the guys”. The fact that I “wasn’t like most girls” made it easier for guys to relate to me since all the things synonymous with being part of a girl gang were negative like being chatty, manipulative or excessively emotional.

When I first moved back to San Antonio, my friend group stayed small. It was mostly the ones I had kept from college and if anything I went through a similar friend purge that most mid to late 20-somethings go through. I lost people that I thought I’d have in my life until I decide to return to the swamp that birthed me.

But I have some people in my life now that are ride-or-die. And I’ve never really experienced this from friends of any kind. I have people in my life willing to fight for me when I am not willing to fight for myself (which, let’s be honest, is most of the time). I have folks that empower me, inspire me, challenge me and think that I am worth something (which is, let’s be honest, not something I feel all the time). I didn’t think this was possible from friendships, I didn’t think this was even conceivable from female friends. I’m not one to fight for myself and I hate conflict (thanks, trauma) so I’m willing to stay close to people who hurt me. I don’t feel like I have to sacrifice anything with these ladies and I feel supported (genuinely), lifted up (expertly) and empowered (sometimes too much).

So I wanted to take some time out to thank some of the members of my Girl Gang.

Amanda: Literally, this is a girl I met at LUSH (she thought I was a secret shopper because I caught one of the most obscure references in a commercial retailer ever) and we said we were both going to the same con. During that con at one of my panels I mentioned that I had one right after the other and that I needed food. LIKE A CHAMPION, this girl brought me chicken nuggets right in the middle of my set and it’s been a friendship made in anime series history ever since then.

Victoria: She’s the best mom-friend I never thought I needed. Fellow Slytherin, fellow feminist, fellow person filled with ennui but just so much endless love and support. I’m emotional even thinking about it. I’m so lucky to have her in my life and every part of her life is just magical.

Amber: The current longest running member of the Girl Gang. I have known her since college. She was my treasurer in the anime club I ran in college and helped keep me sane with my Vice President resigned suddenly. Amber is a frequent figure mentioned on my blog: she is my travel companion and close friend and I’m so fortunate to still have her in my life 10 years nearly on (I’m so old…).

Lisa: Lisa is honestly one of the most spectacular women I have ever met. There’s a reason I continue to work with her over and over again. I have never had someone so in my corner. She’s brilliant and the world sorely needs more people as empathetic, enthusiastic and kind as Lisa.

I’ve spent a lot of time valuing others more than myself but it’s amazing and frankly, relieving to have these wonderful women in my life that support me so much. Society tells us that when girls get together it’s nothing but incessant chatter and back-handed compliments. When we get together it’s talks about philosophy and art. It’s support that is genuine and real. It’s a love that is unselfish and kind. It’s listening and caring and telling you when your skirt doesn’t match your top. It’s telling you that your boyfriend’s behavior is scary and making a family when your own is a hot trash pile.

It’s a type of friendship I didn’t think that was possible or that I deserved but I’m so happy to have it.

Avenue Q- Review

I recently went to the Woodlawn Theater’s performance of the acclaimed Broadway musical Avenue Q and was pleasantly surprised with how well the show was put on in such a space. I personally love the Broadway performance and was very afraid to be disappointed in a non-Broadway attempt of such a huge production. My friends and I spent the entire time laughing and enjoying ourselves, singing in our chairs and occasionally averting our eyes when things got a little steamy, despite it being in the end, puppets.

I was impressed with how similar many of the actors looked to their puppet counterparts and seemed to simply use the puppets as an extension of themselves and not really as their own separate creatures. I wondered if it was intentional how similar the actors looked to their puppet co-stars. The acting between puppet actors and human actors was perfect. Eye contact was great not just with the other actors but with the audience. The characterization was spot on and the characters were very relatable.

Now, I admit there were a few flubs in the singing especially by the part of Rod whose part of the soundtrack I learned very extensively. A few mess ups during key songs and lines that vanished somehow and though I expected this with the transition from Broadway to the small stage but these were pretty key mistakes that not only were caught by me but by my friends even one that had a non-theater background. But the actor did recover well from the mistake.

There was a great use of multimedia in the form of two televisions on either side of the stage and were the same media images and such used in the original Broadway performance and served as a functional piece for the audience and also a launching point for the actors and the actors would interact with the screens reading off of them at times.

The sound system was sensitive and had a few problems with feedback throughout the production which was later blamed on cell phone usage. But the issues with the loud cracking noises did not affect the actors at all but it was a bit annoying to hear in the audience. The microphones were great and the songs could be heard well, I had no issue hearing the characters or any of the songs.

The costume design was very realistic not just on the puppets but on the human actors, the clothing was set pretty modern, jeans t-shirts, skirts and dresses that easily seemed to be purchased at any one of the name brand stores of the day. I was impressed how easily the actors were able to bring personality to the puppets and how natural that movement was.

The lighting was bright and there were flashing bulbs on the side, similar to a large Broadway performance that flashed and blinked during some of the musical numbers of to illustrate high or low points. Also the lighting was very dynamic, lots of different colors used and several filters used which added brightness to the set but the flashing bulbs on the side did seem a little excessive at times since the theater is so dark it seemed very bright and a tad unnecessary.

The set design was the functional apartment building and that served as the main backdrop and other functional pieces would be moved onto the set to provide differentiation for other scenes for instance beds would be rolled out, or a giant version of Kate Monster draped over the building or it becoming the Empire State Building.

The audience was very tuned in to the performance not a lot of fidgeting at all, it was a very engaging show and interactive with the characters often breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience and some lines were changed to make it relevant to the audience and the current social climate including mentioning Rick Perry in their final song “For Now”. This adaptation got a pretty big response out of the audience and was very funny to me and my friends.

I love Avenue Q and think the Woodlawn Theater did a wonderful rendition of the performance I believe the direction’s intention and vision was met and it was nearly impossible not to laugh during this show. It is by no means for children and the concern of how to make a show with puppets more adult did arise in my mind for a moment but any trepidation was quickly dispelled. But the show was witty, funny and contemporary. Overall a hilarious experience well worth the wait and the cost. We sang the soundtrack the entire way home and plan to see it again since it has been extended one more week at the Woodlawn.

A Casual Relationship with Death

_Because I could not stop for Death – He kindly stopped for me – The Carriage held but just Ourselves – And Immortality._If you look at modern meme culture (which I do because it’s a nice ephemeral distraction from our current hellscape) there’s a lot of talk about death. Responses like “At least we all die.” and easily and casually referencing death as a way to handle any inconvenience or slight no matter how small. “I guess I’ll just die.” has been a rather convenient form of shorthand for a while now referencing how difficult and herculean some tasks in life can be and it’s even one that me (someone who works in the death care industry) use when talking about how hard it is to set appointments or even stay on the line while I wait to refill a prescription.

But I wonder why we have such a casual relationship with the concept of mortality despite death denial never being stronger with all the detoxes and fad diets.

It’s easy to chalk this up to the hyperbolic nature of language now. Death is the ultimate end: it doesn’t get more hyperbolic than saying that going to Trader Joe’s will literally kill you.

I think it goes a little deeper than that. I think it has to do with our current epidemic of anxiety and nihilism in the face of our current climate.

Let’s step back in time: it’s just after World War II in Paris. A city that is still in places rebuilding and is full of wine, absinthe, smoke, bread and ennui. The new wave of existentialists had taken root in Paris and with minds like Sartre and Camus looking at the works of Kierkegaard and Freud. Both come to similar but somewhat differing views on death and meaning. Sartre was more hopeful, a little like Kierkegaard while Camus was incredibly nihilistic about the whole thing like a strange fusion of Freud and Nietzsche. But both saw death as a drive we moved towards and dealt with. Existentialism is being very aware of mortality to a nearly terminal (pun intended)  way. Death hangs round like a passive ghost here to remind you that meaning is useless and we all perish: it’s simply a matter of time.

There’s a line in an early episode of Lore where the brilliant host Aaron Mahnke discusses the Afterglow Vista (which is an amazing episode and one of my favorites) and one of the features of this strange mausoleum are pillars: most of the pillars are finished except for one and the construction note on that is “because Death never lets you finish your work.”.

Existentialism was a direct response to how hollow Romanticism seemed and the Romantic notion of how glorious death and the afterlife must be seemed to only accelerate the death drive. Romanticism fits in with a great deal of the Victorian era and that’s where we really start to get a romanticization (lower case for a reason) with death and memento mori and modern funeral culture. So while the Romantics saw death as a friend who hangs around waiting patiently for you to be finished with your meat prison, Existentialists saw death as a forever looming ghost that you had to fight off daily because existence is painful, useless and never-ending until it, well, ends.

And while we are technically in a Postmodern age (a word I hate), I don’t think that Existential relationship with using dark humor to cope with our current existence. The internet (which seems to be mostly people who have some form of anxiety [because that’s very human and fine]) has perpetuated that feeling. Dark humor, memes and more is how we deal with all that is going on and woah, boy, it’s a lot going on. And it is in dark humor that we return to our relationship with death. Death is a lot to deal with, mortality is not something that’s fun or exciting to meditate on: trust me, I am surrounded by death daily for work and it doesn’t get easier.

I’m proudly mostly Death Positive and one of the main tenets of The Order of the Good Death is confronting mortality but facing it: often, daily. And no member of The Order will ever tell you that such a thing is easy. I joke about it to make me aware and maybe, just maybe to take a small shot at something we are all hurtling towards.

That is one of my favorite things about the French Existentialists, using humor to defuse our fear. Camus was huge on using humor and wit to demystify and remove the wonder from the world and in facing and coping with the absurd, even large things seem less large. It reminds me one of two of my favorite pieces of humor ever: The Galaxy Song and Always Look on the Bright Side both from two old Monty Python movies. Both songs take a firm look at how silly and stupid life is and can be and encourages you to overcome that feeling with a laugh.

There is a lot to be overwhelmed with in our current world. Climate change is nearly paralyzing, world governments are a hot hot mess, the economy is bad and apparently everyone in Hollywood is a garbage human. All of it seems hopeless and futile and the sweet sweet embrace of the quiet, stillness of an eternal dirt sleep seem almost like a comfort.

And our media seems to enforce this narrative. With the influx of genocidal themes and generalized themes around death and dying as aspects of movie plot lines, it’s easy to see a much more casual if not entirely fictive relationship with The End. Comic books and video games make death seem like an inconvenient bump in the road and lord knows that anime has a bad reputation with character deaths meaning next to nothing. One of the biggest things I’ll always say about the earlier runs of comic books is that most of the time, death mattered. When House of M happened, those characters stayed dead. When Crisis on Infinite Earths happened, those deaths mattered and when The Great Blue Boy Scout stopped flying around Metropolis, he stayed gone for a while. Each one had weight and meaning until it just didn’t.

Music seemed to take the opposite direction with pop songs encouraging almost destructive levels of Carpe Diem via excessive drinking, partying, sleeping with strangers, driving fast cars and generally not giving a hoot and a half. Drake said “YOLO” Ke$ha says act like we’re going to “Die Young” and Avicii encouraged all of us to create more of “the nights that never die”. Death stops the party but if you get there faster, you might as well have gotten there faster but doing a kegger in a parking lot after seeing your favorite band one more time.

This isn’t to belittle the actual suicide crisis in the U.S. and around the world. There is a huge different in joking about death casually than those who actively do not see light at the end of the tunnel. And that’s always a tricky line that I am not professionally equipped to answer for you. To each person, a joke or a cry for help are likely very different lines and cues and I am not the one to say there’s a one-size-fits-all answer to it.

For those of us who are anxious, depressive, melancholic, malcontent, filled with ennui and malaise; joking about the end makes it easier to face the end and with our current state of inflammatory language, using The Grim Reaper as a stand-in for a myriad of other issues that oppress, confine and exhaust was a logical step in the right direction.

It’s a road we all reach someday: might as well have a good time while on it.