New ideas, concepts, and actions undergo an evolution before they attain a general cultural popularity. When a subject is uncomfortable to acknowledge or discuss, it remains in the background, almost in the realm of a taboo. As it begins to take hold in the mainstream, popular culture’s media avenues recognize it, perhaps mixing humor with the inappropriate or the macabre. And finally, it is discussed in a matter-of-fact manner, signifying the overall cultural acceptance of the idea, concept, or action.
Cremation is one such concept which has followed this natural arc toward a broader acceptance. Only a few decades ago, the fact individuals and families shied away from cremation was represented in the relatively low number of individuals who opted for cremation over a traditional burial. Any representation in media of the practice was typically a combination of antiquated and foreign, (e.g. Viking funerals).
As cremations gained legitimacy, the practice of cremation started being reflected onscreen. Cremation was referred to tangentially and with great comedic effect in the 2000 blockbuster movie Meet The Parents, when Ben Stiller’s character inadvertently knocks the urn containing the ashes of his future father-in-law’s mother. Jinx, the family cat adds to the hilarious horror of the situation by beelining for the ashes, desecrating the remains further.
More recently, 2011 gave us The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a film in which several ex-patriot British seniors move to a seniors-only residence in India. This funny and touching film explores the beauty and dignity of the Hindu funeral rites when one of the ensemble characters passes away. The grace and reverence attached to the idea of cremation helps to inform the end-of-life decisions of individuals and advance the ever growing popularity of this means of final disposition.
And then, just this past week — Bazinga! — the idea of cremation was broached on the most popular television show of this season and the last several years: “The Big Bang Theory.” The central characters are socially awkward academic scientists who live together. Their relationship is a platonic love peppered with perfectly timed insults and one-liners. Short of retelling the 22-minute plot, one of the main characters, Sheldon, presents his best friend and roommate, Leonard, with an elaborately ornate urn he purchased in anticipation of his almost certain death during a surgical procedure. The punchline was that Sheldon, too, had purchased a custom designed urn for himself that stated, “I’m With Stupid.”
There is absolutely no doubt the acceptance of cremation is surging upwards. In fact, the Cremation Association of North America projects greater than 50% of individuals will opt for cremation over traditional burial by 2025. This acceptance, like many other previously unspoken topics, is mirrored in the media we enjoy. If you haven’t yet considered your choice for an end-of-life service, now is the time to honestly assess your own beliefs and attitudes and determine your end-of-life plans. If cremation is your chosen means for a final disposition, many reputable cremation providers provide preplanning options to ensure you affordable pricing. If your interest has been piqued by popular media that deal with cremation, a simple Google search provides you a wealth of information which exposes this ever more popular end-of-life option.