TV Show Celebrates Death

1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is considered one of the best movies of the latter half of the 20th century. It might also mark the birth of the “anti-hero” drama that defines much of the entertainment medium today. The movie portrayed blowing up trains and robbing banks in comedic terms. Two people who were ruthless criminals in real life were portrayed as lovable. At least however, the movie shows the violent end the duo met.

In the nearly half century since that movie made “Raindrops keeping Falling on My Head” a bubble gum hit, TV and movie drama has taken a decidedly dark turn. In the last decade, the most popular dramas featured central characters who were not “lovable” anti-heroes like Butch and Sundance. They are instead downright despicable human beings. “Breaking Bad’s” school teacher turned drug kingpin Walter White, serial killer Dexter Morgan from “Dexter,” husband and wife Soviet spies in “The Americans” and all the inmates in “Orange is the New Black,” are mostly irredeemable characters. Simply put, they are bad people.

But even at that, the audience understands that these characters’ behavior is aberrant. “Mad Men’s” Don Draper will never care about anyone but himself, Dexter Morgan may only kill murderers, but chopping up other human beings isn’t normal. “The Americans'” Phillip and Elizabeth may really love their children, but they are still murderous Soviet agents, enemies of the United States. In other words, their behavior isn’t normal or acceptable. TV drama has now reached a new level of “evil protagonist” with “Mary Kills People,” seen on Lifetime TV in the United States. The show features an E.R. doctor by day/angel of death by night lead character who helps people take their lives.

Season 2 premiered last month and as MRC Newsbusters blog reported recently, The April 2 episode was literally a celebration of death, via a corruption of the Mexican holiday, “Day of the Dead”:

Death isn’t bad. It doesn’t have to be. It’s part of life. And you can say good-bye the way you want, live your death as you would your life.

Brendan: I would want it to be a party.

Mary: It can be.

Media Trackers spoke with Nancy Elliott, Chair of Euthanasia Prevention Coalition USA about “Mary Kills People.” She believes the show is more pro-euthanasia propaganda than entertainment:

I think the media has a responsibility, kind of like calling fire in a crowded theater, you can’t do that. Most shows that have sin, evil, but usually acknowledge that that is wrong. This is saying this is right; that’s the problem. If Mary or all the people around her recognize what she is doing is wrong, this whole show would be a different animal. This is plain propaganda. Pushing an agenda.

Elliot says she normally believes in letting the viewing public decide whether a show should remain on the air, but she makes an exception in the case of “Mary Kills People.” She feels the show should be terminated:

I normally figure grown adults can watch what they want. The trouble with this particular show is it is glamorizing killing other people. When you watch a show about the mob, you know the hit on someone is evil. This is making evil good. It’s warping the public conscience so they can accept euthanasia and assisted suicide. In my opinion, the program is propaganda, to get use to killing people for their own good.

And much of the entertainment media treats “Mary Kills…” as just another drama. From Variety:

Tara Armstrong has been preoccupied with death since she was a child. The creator behind “Mary Kills People,” a drama that follows a doctor who moonlights as an angel of death for terminal patients, says she has been writing about death as a way to try to figure out how she feels about it.

“I wrote this because I think that it’s important to talk about the topic and not just ignore it,” Armstrong says of “Mary Kills People.” “What we really wanted to do was normalize death and the dying process and present a different kind of death than what we normally see on TV. It’s usually fast and not really explored deeply.”

A Google search turned up no media coverage that examined the moral implications of “Mary Kills…” normalizing euthanasia. The six episode season two concludes this week.