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Drop Dead Gorgeous

Representations of Corpses in American TV Shows

Previously only ever seen, briefly, at the scene of their demise, corpses have become a central part of many popular American television shows in the twenty-first century. From CSI to Six Feet Under, extended portrayals of dead bodies—in the morgue, in the embalming room, or in pathology—now confront viewers, eliciting not only anxiety but also fascination. Shedding new light on media’s ideals of beauty and the body, Drop Dead Gorgeous analyzes representations of corpses on TV through cultural, sociological, and historical lenses and compares them with depictions of the dead from films, paintings, and photographs.

267 pages | 60 color plates | 5 1/2 x 8 3/8 | © 2011

Media Studies

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Table of Contents

Part I—Introduction
1. Theory
    1.1 Image, death and discourse
    1.2 Historical survey of depictions of corpses
    1.3 Representation of corpses in TV shows from 1950–2000
    1.4 New representations of corpses in TV shows from 2000–2010
    1.5 New sophisticated death representations
2. Methodology
    2.1 Analysis of TV shows
    2.2 Pictorial Analysis
    2.3 Film Analysis
    2.4 Interviews
    2.5 Statistic research
    2.6 "Genre"
Part 2—Analysis: What is shown and how?
3. Pictorial Analysis: Pretty corpses in the pathology
    3.1 Introduction
    3.2 New TV shows with new representations of death
        3.2.1 Documentary: North Mission Road and Family Plots
        3.2.2 Black comedy and drama: Six Feet Under
        3.2.3 Crime: CSI, Crossing Jordan, Bones, NCIS, and Castle
        3.2.4 Fantasy comedy: Dead Like Me and Pushing Daisies
        3.2.5 Fantasy drama: Tru Calling, Heroes, and Dexter
    3.3 Summary
4. Film Analysis: Disgusting autopsies in the pathology
    4.1 Media Aesthetics
    4.2 Film Analysis Autopsy
    4.3 Film Analysis CSI
    4.4 Comparison and Evaluation of the Representation Codes
    4.5 Summary
Part 3—Field Research: What is not shown and why?
5. New representations and new taboos
    5.1 Taboo and death
    5.2 General representation restrictions
    5.3 Scientific representation taboos regarding death
    5.4 Excursus on hospital autopsies
    5.5 Conclusion on new representations and new taboos
6. Field research: The Representation of Corpses under Constraints
    6.1 Officials: The LA County Coroner TV show North Mission Road
        6.1.1 Pictorial analysis of the representation of an autopsy
        6.1.2 Interview with the medical examiner participant
    6.2 Producer: Interviews with the filmmaker
        6.2.1 Money, time and censorship
        6.2.2. Race, Age, Gender
        6.2.3 Working on realism
    6.3 Recipients: The public response to the new TV shows
        6.3.1 The "CSI Effect" in the juristic discourse
        6.3.2 The "CSI Effect" in the humanistic discourse
    6.4 Summary
Part 4—Conclusion
7. Conclusion
    7.1 Visual knowledge and communicative genre
        7.1.1 Changing genres
        7.1.2 Changing body images
    7.2 New Representations of Death in other Audio-Visual Media

Works Cited

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