When this show first came out I was in the beginning of dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after the death of my good friend and during that time I could not even hear death related words without falling into PTSD panic attacks and flashbacks to Wendy’s murder. The commercials for this show totally freaked me out, but I mean really freaked me out, inducing panic like you can’t imagine and even hearing a mention of the show set my stomach roiling with grief and fear. It was years before I could even watch a movie with a semblance of violence.
It wasn’t until 2006 in Granada actually that I returned to Six Feet Under and began watching the first three seasons on DVD. Life continues to amaze me with how art and important art always seems to find you when you most need it, or when you are finally ready to experience it. Now, I live in Istanbul and they have just started the 5th season on television. Such a delightful surprise! And strange how the show ends up mirroring so much of the experience that prevented me from watching it all those years.
Although it is still difficult for me to see death in films, by now I understand that death is a part of life and death itself is not a scary thing. The scary thing is losing someone we love and how we figure out our lives after they have passed on. The first thing that struck me about the show was the presence of Spirits. I always felt Wendy around after her death, and Wendy helped me to feel the many Spirits that are present in any given moment; the invisible world of people around us. Many of the people who pass on in the show reappear as Spirits to the main characters. In real life and in their dreams. This was amazing and I felt just a little bit more understood after watching it.
The next thing that struck me was how wonderful it was to see a show where the people who die are presented in their entirety, as a person with a family, lovers and dreams. I am so tired of the cold forensic CSI portrayal of death, where a lost one is a ‘vic’ with no name who is examined clinically and icily. Dead people are still people and they deserve dignity, respect. They do not cease being who they are because they have died. Six Feet Under is so very aware of this and they honour the dead with each episode.
I ended up falling in love with the quirky red-headed Fisher family, who own the mortuary the entire show revolves around. Their dysfunctionality, their creativity, their bungled relationships, their searching, their love. The performances are magnificent and so human. While there is a lot of magical realism, there is something so real about them. Their problems are our problems, not glamourous or comic, just real.
While it is still difficult for me to watch the show, I always learn something important about how to deal with and process death in my own life. I always cry healing tears that bring me one step closer to being okay with my own past. Plus, the writing is so brilliant, the acting is wonderful, and the characters so varied and interesting, I will end up laughing in spite of myself.
Six Feet Under has made television meaningful.