Death in ‘Peep Show’

It would not be a bad characterisation of Peep Show, I think, to say that it depicts a world in which one can be reminded of the transient nature of human existence, and as a result reflect on the fact that you’re probably getting screwed on your phone tariff.

Although, in truth, there was no real death in Sunday’s episode. Gerrard was not allowed to die, Mark Corrigan is too damaged not to continue to see him as a rival. Gerrard’s death was, to Mark, a strategic move; an ingenious gambit in their rivalry over Dobby. It was thus, for Mark, contained completely within the logic of this world; a world which, in Peep Show, you can never leave. Death – a real death – is a release from the world, and hence contains the element of theology. The lesson of the Memento Mori: all things pass. It might be different, one day.

As Benjamin tells us in ‘The Storyteller’, it used to be hard to find a house that hadn’t had people die in it; now death takes place in hospitals, apart from us. The loss of death as a public process is part of the story Benjamin tells about the withering of experience. I say ‘theology’ in the paragraph above; Benjamin uses the equivalent, ‘eternity’. As we loose touch with death, so we let slip the possibility of a life we can actually live.

A world in which there is no more death is one in which there is no more life. The characters in Peep Show do not live; they are not human beings, they are animals, trapped, as increasingly we all are, in an environment as hostile as it is bland. “And from thence the humour arose.”

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