An Introduction to Obituaries

Welcome to a post about death. (Hopefully someone will appreciate my Beetlejuice the Musical reference as an attempt to lighten up this rather dark topic). In the wake of my first experiment, I was left pondering how cathartic it was to embrace some of the frustrations that come from being concerned about the state of the natural environment and dealing with the doom and gloom that comes with a lot of my studies. For my second experiment I decided that fully embracing the dark side of my topic (human control over/impact on nature) could be an interesting way to further explore these feelings through a creative outlet. And thus I have decided to go to the extreme try and write an obituary…… for the Earth.

An obituary is a written notice of death, typically occurring in a newspaper. They usually include a brief biography of the deceased, but their public nature tends to keep them really short and not too personal. When looking up the tradition elements of an obituary I stumbled across a 6-step checklist for everything that needs to be included:

  1. Announcement of death to let readers know who has died
  2. Biographical sketch which recounts the most important events, qualities, contributions, and connections in a person’s life
  3. Family: a list of those surviving them (spouses, siblings, children, ect.)
  4. Service times: time, full date and place of service, name of officiant; time, full date and place of burial; time, full date and place of visitation
  5. Special messages which can include “in lieu of flowers please send…”, prayers, lines from poems, etc.
  6. Photos typically showing off person happy, doing things they loved with people they loved.

While obituaries tend to exist for and in the community that the person lived in, in order to better understand this genre in the scope of an obituary outside of a more centralized community, I looked into obituaries for celebrities to see if there were any tenants of an obituary for someone who had a global impact that were different than what I had come across in my initial research. When looking at an obituary for Prince in the Telegraph I noticed that his obituary was headlined by his time in the public eye and the accomplishments of his career before going into the typical biographical information included in an obituary. The Telegraph also included quotes about their accomplishments and life from other industry professionals and famous friends. Many different publications had written obituaries for Prince, and each one had a slightly different point of view that was meant to encompass the ways in which their readers would have engaged Prince during his life. While even a celebrity obituary has most if not all of the six parts of an obituary listed above (often missing the service times portion), they have a lot more emphasis on the audience and the way that they engaged with the deceased as opposed to just the life of that person.

An obituary is sad in nature, but often serves as a celebration of life. I hope that exploring this genre in the context of this topic will serve both as a warning of the dangers of a lack of concern and action for environmental protection, but also a celebration of the beauty of the natural world.

3 thoughts to “An Introduction to Obituaries”

  1. I love that you are writing an obituary for the earth. Something about how dark it is almost makes it funny, yet makes a very clear point about where our planet is headed towards if we don’t make change. How long were you planning on it being? Are you just going to reflect on the time that humans have been here or the whole history? I feel like either way could be fun to explore! I can’t wait to see where this goes!

  2. I want to start by saying I’m really excited about this as a concept. I like how you decided to look into how obituaries are written for celebrities; I think it fits really well for the earth. I’m excited to see what you do with this and how it helps you channel your anger about the earth dying (RIP)

  3. This is going to be so good as mentioned above. Like you said, I think this work is going to essentially be a satire but the format will make it that much more convincing/sad to read/alarming. Maybe including quotes from people about nature and how much they loved it and how the loss of it will really hurt them could also be effective. You can either take a humorous route with this or just make it depressing; either or will get your point across I think.

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