I ran across this meme regarding how we feel when it comes to depictions of characters dying in our entertainment and thought I'd give it a whirl:
Do you dislike, tolerate, or enjoy fiction or art that depicts people dying?
It's all about the context for me. I wouldn't say that I enjoy seeing characters dead or dying (especially main characters), but I don't object to it either. Sometimes, it's needed (I'm thinking Tara on BTVS), sometimes it's about taking the characters in a new direction (the Fred to Illyria transformation on Angel), and sometimes it's to force a character to grow in ways that they might not be able to otherwise (Joyce's death on BTVS).
I'm alright with it, with two stipulations... I loathe gratuitous torture (by which I mean, the villain has no reason to do so other than because they're bad or the creator wants us to see just how bad the suffering can get in order to put us, as viewers, through Hell).
For main characters, I also need the death to have repercussions depicted. As I've mentioned before on another meme, Anya's death on BTVS never worked for me, because the series ended without any sort of emotional catharsis about it. Xander puts his hand on Andrew's shoulder and tells him Anya was always making stupid choices, and that was that. That isn't sufficient. I don't want a major player's death to be a plot point, but for it to have consequences (note, that I do make a special exception for drabbles or short stories or where we're joining a story in which a character death is mentioned as past tense).
How do you feel about ratings/warnings when it comes to depictions of violence or death?
In general, I'm against trigger warnings or story warnings being imposed on an author. I'm not against a writer (or pic-creator) including the warning as a courtesy. I just don't believe it is any sort of requirement. I appreciate if what I'm about to expose myself to has very graphic elements being forewarned against, but I've never issued a missive to anyone because they didn't warn me beforehand.
Does what you'll consume vary depending on the medium or author?
I believe so. I think I'm much more tolerant of graphic descriptions of violence and bodily injury than I am of having it depicted in images. My tolerance level is higher for the written word.
To what extent do you think what you produce or consume is affected by personal/cultural/religious views/beliefs you have concerning death?
I don't think at all? At least, not consciously. I tend to think, since we have no objective facts for what happens after we die, I can accept anything that the author wants to include. I certainly have preferences about it... I'd rather see a depiction of a merciful universe seeing to it that heroes get what they deserve and villains don't get rewarded for their villainy after they're dead, but that wouldn't preference wouldn't stop me from reading a tale where the universe is cruel or capricious or utterly random about it, either.
Are there any characters/groups of characters (apart from the 'bad guys') that you are happier to read dying than others?
Well, I always consider side characters as expendable more or less, so tales where they get screwed over in order to apply growth or angst or H/C onto the hero's story is fine with me. Again, I think I'm more concerned with what is being done with the death after it has happened, rather than concerning myself with who exactly died. I will say that I don't like stories where the main characters, whether primary or secondary, just suffer a completely random death. This happens, of course, but in my fiction, I like there to be some logical 'reason' why this character died... maybe because they were fighting monsters, maybe because the villain couldn't reach the hero, or wanted to hurt them, maybe because the character did something dumb and it had consequences... but give me something other than, "He was walking down the street and a jet engine fell on his head. The End."
In terms of fiction, is there such a thing as a 'good death'? How would you define that?
I'm not sure how to define a 'good death', other than the obvious... dying heroically while saving somebody else. Self-sacrifice in service to others is a good death, but other than that obvious example? Dying of old age or sickness right after having making amends for a past wrong, maybe? (Cliched, yes, but a good death nonetheless.)
Do you prefer deaths to be explicitly depicted or to happen 'off-screen', if at all?
If it is a main character, then I generally want to see it - unless it is a brutal, ugly, prolonged death. If that is the case, then I'd rather just have a coroner tell us about it. In fact, if it is a torturous, prolonged death, then I always would rather hear about it second hand. But if it is a quick death, or a death that is relatively painless like someone being in a coma and passing away, then I would much rather read the details or see it depicted so that I can experience the immediate aftermath at the same time as our characters. I also would always rather experience a death that takes place during our character being heroic than to have that described to us after the fact.
In general, do you have a preference/anti-preference for the perspective from which a character death is written/discussed, be it the dying person, the killer or a bystander/someone else?
My preference is to read/see it as a third party looking at it (as is with most television or movies) rather than as a POV from the dying person, or the killer. But, again, this is a preference and not a requirement to enjoy a story being told. For instance, Friday the 13th (the first one) used a lot of killer-cam to keep the murderer's identity secreted from the audience. I liked the movie and have no problems with that perspective (although it quickly wore out its welcome through overuse in subsequent slashers). In BTVS: S8 we
get an issue where a Slayer's death is told from her POV over a page... again, this works for me. The preference though for me is to have a layer between myself and the deaths being depicted, rather than having me involved as a participant.
Are there any forms of violence you're more/less comfortable with than others?
I'm very uncomfortable with graphically depicted rape scenes, just because it's nearly always an excuse to rip off the woman's top for a cheap boob-shot. I loathe 'torture porn' in which the entire point seems to be "let's see how much of this you can take, audience" rather than to have an actual story point.
Are there any situations in which you think a death cannot/should not be 'bought back' either through resurrection or soap-style coma/amnesia retconning?
I almost always hate the resurrection/ret-conning trick to un-do a death. It's cheating. I'm fine with a character dying and then being brought back via CPR or being shocked back to life nearly immediately. I don't like when (and this is a big trope in the comics) the death is explained away later as having been an android duplicate, clone, here-to-fore unknown twin, etc.
I always hate it when a series goes to that well over and over (Supernatural). When a character has died multiple times (and if Buffy has another death, I'll include her in this) or your entire starring cast has been killed and resurrected then the plot point is dead (so to speak). Quit pulling this on us (this is the reason I gave up on Marvel comics ... everyone has died and made a return).
Death shouldn't be a ratings booster that comes with a revolving door.
Will you produce/consume depictions of the afterlife/dimensions or realities beyond our own that are usually accessed through death?
Sure! But only if there is a larger story point... not just to show the character happy in Heaven as a way to comfort the audience. For instance, in Angel, we know Cordelia has joined the Powers That Be. Not because we wanted to make sure she's okay and the show's creators gave us that assurance, but because she comes back to interact as a ghost or guiding spirit. It is completely appropriate for us to see/hear about her having gone somewhere in those circumstances. In general though, death's aftermath to he/she who died should be something denied to our characters and therefore to us, unless there is a plot specific reason we need to know their fate.
Does it matter to you whether the afterlife depicted is positive/'heavenly', neutral or negative/'hellish'?
No, it doesn't. Other than it shouldn't be a random happenstance. I really prefer that if you're going to depict the afterlife anyway, that there be some sort of story logic for where the character is and I'd like to be in-the-know, even if the character has no idea.
Does it make a difference whether the characters depicted in these realities have died or are 'just visiting'?
I don't think so. I mean, other than my preference for Heaven/Hell not being accessed as easily as going to the supermarket. And, if the character is getting yanked to Heaven every other story, then that would start to get ridiculous... I guess what I'm looking for is to treat the afterlife with a gravitas, if you're going to go there at all.
Do you have any pet hates when it comes to depictions of death?
The only thing I really don't like (there are exceptions, like BTVS: The Wish) is when it is all given a reset button at the end of the story... or if there are no consequences of returning from The Big Death (Again, Supernatural). If characters remember being dead and either wandering through Heaven, Hell, Limbo, etc. then there should be a lasting impact on that character (something which BTVS handled excellently, even if I found the general season to be weakly written and monotonous).
Oh, god, and for filmmakers everywhere ... the "It's not really over!" sting ending where the killer isn't really dead is no longer a surprising twist. Get over it, already.
What do you wish more stories containing character deaths would include?
Justification. By which I mean, actions should have consequences and that means that characters and/or I should be moved by the experience of having this character die in front of us (assuming it is somebody we know and not a 'teaser-death'). That means that if you're going to kill that character, then include detail... include emotion... don't treat it like the ending of a story, but rather as a momentous event. Death of a main character should always be a profound moment in fiction.