An academic has condemnded “preposterous” media coverage of dead celebrities.
Professor Jacque Lynn Foltyn spoke at the Death, Dying and and Disposal conference at the University of Bath.
She said the public display of the corpses of James Brown, Anna Nicole Smith and Saddam Hussein “were voyeuristic spectacles for a public greedy for a last look at celebrity lives”
Professor Foltyn from the National University, California, said: “Forensic investigation came to the fore in each of these prominent cases.
‘Forensic science was used as an entertainment commodity as well as for legitimate reasons of establishing personal identity, paternity or maternity.
‘It also fed popular culture’s obsession with dissection, decay and DNA.
‘These seemingly separate media events created a series of overlapping, sometimes preposterous, narratives about the disfigured, dissected and displayed remains of the famous, legendary and possibly divine.
‘The celebrity corpse is a voyeuristic spectacle in the infotainment era.
‘But while the public are greedy for a last look at celebrity corpses, there remains a taboo over the everyday human dead of war and disaster.
“Efforts to prevent the coffins of troops returning from Iraq being seen on television mean that we are more likely to see celebrity corpses than the caskets of dead soldiers.’
The eighth international conference on Death, Dying and Disposal is organised by the Centre for Death & Society and ICIA at the University of Bath and takes place from 12-15 September 2007.
More than 200 academics and practitioners from around the world are gathering to discuss the latest research on issues relating to the social aspects of death and dying.