Posts Tagged ‘The Sixth Sense’


The Sixth Sense (1999)

On Tuesday I shared a link to an article by Meg Kinnard that explores the recent zombie trend in light of society’s overall discontent (if you are interested, here is the link to Kinnard’s article: http://tv.yahoo.com/news/researcher-zombie-fads-peak-society-unhappy-092912860.html).

When I read the article, I immediately thought of another popular breed of supernatural creatures in movies, on television, etc. — ghosts.


An American Haunting (2005)

If you can imagine a hypothetical coin for a moment, picture a zombie head on one side.  Then imagine flipping the coin over to reveal the tail-end of a ghost.

Zombies and ghosts are two sides of the same coin.  A zombie is a body without a soul, and a ghost is a soul without a body.  Both speak to the same fear that lurks deep in every person’s very bones: death.  The separation of the body and the soul is, after all, what death is.

So I got to asking myself whether we have seen any ghost trends in film or television in recent years.  Well, in fact, we have.  With films like “The Sixth Sense” and “The Ring” dominating the box office between 1999 and 2003, and TV shows like “Medium” and “The Ghost Whisperer” taking off in the middle of the last decade, plus the recurrence of cult films about haunted houses and public interest in documentary-style TV shows on the investigation of so-called paranormal activity, we can say that the zombie’s fraternal twin has enjoyed its place at the table.


The Haunting (1999)

But if the zombie fad suggests dissatisfaction with society and how it affects the average person, what — if anything — might be suggested by a ghost fad?

It’s hard to say, but my guess would be that if the zombie craze pertains to a crisis of externals (the floundering economy, high unemployment, etc.), then any mass fascination with ghosts must pertain to crises of a more internal character.


“The Sixth Sense” is most probably the most famous ghost movie of the last 15 years.  This movie came at the end of the 1990s, a decade that I like to call the heyday of postmodernism in popular culture.  And with postmodernism comes a crisis in cultural identity.  Why?  Because postmodernism is a philosophy in which the only certainty is that there are no certainties, and in which the only direction is progress in the knowledge that there is no direction.  I might be painting in broad strokes a little bit, but this is the gist of postmodernism’s implications.

Even though the post-9/11 years have been marked by what many would prefer to call post-postmodernism, many of the societal ills that accompanied postmodernism persist.  Examples include eating disorders, high rates of depression, sexual promiscuity, drug addictions, teen suicides, and other such earmarks of a society that is, so to speak, not comfortable in its own skin.

Ghost movies may not be as popular right now, but I believe that they are part of a larger trend that yet endures.  In my opinion, the search for meaning in the midst of a seemingly meaningless (a.k.a. postmodern) world has married postmodernist angst to produce a general fascination with the supernatural in our culture.

Ghosts are part of that — but ultimately, since human beings are both physical and spiritual creatures, I think the people who are into the supernatural want to satisfy their fascination with something more “fleshy.”  Perhaps this explains the more recent vampire craze…but more on that later.

All images obtained through a Google image search

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