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Life Afterlife

afterlife is a TV series about a woman called Alison who sees dead people and the reaction she gets from the outside world – news media, psychologists, ex wives, ex friends and anyone who is trying to cope with the demands made on them.

The ghosts appear as solid living people.  They have strength and power and yet their existence is denied.  Why? Who is it that keeps the ghosts alive? Mostly the deniers who want to impress their rationality on the world, who vehemently insist that ghosts do not exist because they can’t see them – therefore all mediums are frauds.

At one point the main character was institutionalized because of a mental illness which we don’t get to know  beyond the various standard labels fought over by the reigning experts.  There Alison was tortured in the way patients are usually tortured by living in the sanitized ward where they are not entitled to own their knowledge. Alison is a victim, marginalized, unable to get on with creating peace in her life. Accosted by people suffering from grief, hated by strangers who accuse without knowing her, and the dead people who need to get a message to their loved ones.

The last episode I watched begins with a man who suffocates his lover in their bed which Alison gets to know about through a woman who knocks on Alison’s door seeking help. She begs for Alison’s help. Out of compassion Alison stays at the apartment and experiences the death of the murdered woman.  The psychologist who is studying Alison for a book on psychic-phenomena, and who wants to protect her while inserting his own theory on everything she says, goes with her and sees the murderous ghost.  Only he doesn’t suffer the symptom of being suffocated – he just witnesses it.

There is a scene before the murder where you hear the man instruct the woman not to turn on the radio, talk to anyone outside the apartment, or to make a sound within. In effect she is to be invisible, inaudible, not real.  She is not to exist.

The psychologist, Robert, who is haunted by the presence of his dead son, denies any of the phenomena he felt at the spooked apartment, explaining it in terms of his psychological reasoning.

After the death of his young son, Robert is frozen in guilt and sorrow, his wife leaves, marries someone else and is now pregnant. She feels betrayed by Robert’s interest in Alison and demands that he cut ties with her. She accuses him of betraying the memory of their dead son. 

The story is filled with characters making demands on others.  Demanding they see the world as they do.

After Alison insists that the woman (who sought her out) should  leave the apartment immediately because her life is in danger, a centre-fold news article reveals the true identity of the woman. She is a journalist who assumed another name. The journalist “proved” Alison is a fraud because she created the haunting story. Again Alison finds herself betrayed, under attack, alone and reviled.

At the end of the episode the ghosts re-enter the vacant apartment claiming victory that they have returned to this beautiful place that no-one wants because it is haunted.

Whether ghosts are real or not, or whether we create ghosts, or ghosts are created to keep us afraid of the unknown is never answered. But I suspect this series is mostly about the loneliness of people who live in a culture built on ideologies and experts and who find themselves alone because the world demands adherence yet does not listen to them.  We live in a nattering, chattering age, calling forth the Shrew and taming her, replaying Othello and his Iago, creating the new Hitler and Stalin, calling those who see the world differently – idiots and frauds. 

Why does our culture in this post-modern world insist on trying to prove the existence or non-existence of phenomena? What does the journalist have to gain?  What does the ex wife have to gain? What does the psychologist have to gain? And what do the ghosts gain?


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