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James Dean posthumously cast in new movie - expert comment

Should the dead stay dead? Debra Bassett from the Department of Sociology comments on the issues highlighted by the news that James Dean has been digitally resurrected in a new movie:-

"The news that James Dean has been posthumously cast in a film raises important questions about the digital resurrection of the dead. The reanimated dead can be described as Digital Zombies – those who do things in death they did not do in life. This kind of digital resurrection is not new: the entertainer Bob Monkhouse was reanimated to appear in a prostate cancer advertisement 4 years after his death, while Audrey Hepburn and Steve McQueen have also been digitally resurrected for television advertisements.

"However, this type of digital immortality is not only available to the rich and famous: the Terasem LifeNaut program based in Vermont, USA allow their users to create a mind file to store their cognitive information, which they say allows users to create a backup of themselves. This type of technology could be seen as what the virtual reality pioneer Jacqueline Ford Morie described as the “Ultimate Selfie” which is perhaps a reflection of the seemingly narcissistic “selfie culture” found in many Western societies today.

"Technological advances that enable the creation of socially active digital zombies, highlight the complex issues surrounding death and technology, and open up a debate about whether the dead should stay dead. My recent research has shown that although the bereaved are getting used to the dead popping up on everyday technical devices, they still find any form of reanimation of the dead creepy and eerie.

"Interestingly, the CGI enabled digital resurrection of James Dean appears to have the full backing of Dean’s family. The fact that he died over 60 years ago may mean that for the family his appearance in the new film may evoke feelings of nostalgia rather than grief."

8 November 2019


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