The Afterlife in Popular Culture: Heaven, Hell, and the Underworld in the American Imagination

ABC-CLIO. Jun. 2022. 360p. ISBN 9781440868580. $97. REF
O’Neill (philosophy, Univ. of Redlands) provides an encyclopedic study of the predominant versions of the afterlife as presented in more than 100 examples from contemporary pop culture, including films, novels, nonfiction books, theatre, music, and even celebrity mediums. First is a review of the origins of the immortal soul and the rise in the belief of bodily resurrection; then comes a humorless overview of depictions of the more colorful undead—zombies, vampires, ghosts and spirits, angels and demons. O’Neill also proffers a fascinating take on digital afterlife, the beginnings of which are already underway in the form of holograms of holocaust witnesses and the superior intelligence of Mind Clone avatars. Readers will find detailed synopses of such predictably included films as It’s a Wonderful Life, Ghost, and The Sixth Sense, but also the more obscure A Ghost Story from 2017, 1936’s trope-filled The Green Pastures, the music of Notorious B.I.G and Iris DeMent, and television series such as Six Feet Under and The Good Place.
VERDICT O’Neill incorporates many examples from young-adult fiction as he provides clear, nonjudgmental evidence of the American fascination with, rather than fear of, life after death, focusing on the prevalent theme of optimism.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing