Funeral in the media - a list of sites, books, documentaries and so on which cover the funeral industry

    Below are a few resources I've found relevant to the funeral industry.  This is not a complete list, nor is it always directly about the industry itself.  But it's a great place to start, and if you find anything else let me know (either in the comments below or in an email).


Confessions of a Funeral Director
    This is a good blog and popular blog about the personal side of being an undertaker.  A very good look into the life and role of working in the industry.  I do not agree with everything in this blog, but it does capture the atmosphere of an undertaker quite well.

Coffin Talk
    A good and varied forum about death, funerals, the funeral industry and much more.  With links to other sites and an active member base this is a great resource and place for anyone interested in anything to do with the funeral industry, funerals or death.  Check it out or better yet join up!

Daily Undertaker
    Another blog from an undertakers perspective.  It has some really interesting and accurate stories, such as how flowers are a pain for undertakers.  This blog also looks into attitudes towards funerals and the funeral industry, such as cemeteries being used for other things.

Order of the Good Death
    An interesting website founded by a mortician and others in the industry.  It has some different stuff, looking at the funeral industry from another angle.  There is also a youtube channel for this site which has some very informative videos. - the youtube channel. - FaceBook page.

Until it Kills Me
    This blog is written by an undertaker in Brisbane.  It's a fun little blog and well worth a read, with an interesting and insightful perspective and approach.  But personally I find the facebook account much more interesting, and one of the better facebooks pages related to the funeral industry. - FaceBook Page.

Your Funeral Guy
    A blog that looks at the modern funeral industry.  As in declines in profit of coffins, controversy with funeral homes and so on.  It's an interesting blog and full of handy tips to save money or get more value on the funeral.  It has also covered several important stories or issues with the funeral industry.

- Documentaries:

For Life - Funeral Documentary
    I thought it would be appropriate to start the list with an Australian documentary.  This is the only Australian documentary, TV show, movie, etc that I can find.  It is an interesting piece about the first funeral home in SA to have its own crematorium.  Focusing on the people it interviews the staff while following them on their daily activities.  One thing noted at the end of part 2 was the changes in attitudes towards the funeral service.  For example to changes in the role of women, from never carrying a coffin to now carrying, or the increasing number of non-religious services.  I found both of these things myself when talking to staff in the industry.  In such a short time this documentary covers a lot of ground.

Part 1 -

Part 2 -

Permission to Embalm
    Another short documentary, this time set in America (as most are).  This one is focused more on the mortuary and embalming side of the industry.  It looks at some of the machines and tools used in the mortuary as well as some basic procedures.  This film also asks people how and why they got into the industry, a surprisingly common question asked of funeral staff.  We rarely ask people why they got into retail, or bar tending, or so on and yet we ask our funeral directors.  As though it is an odd, difficult or unusual thing to do.

Watch on YouTube.

The Undertaking (2007)
    Arguably the best documentary on the funeral industry, certainly one of the more interesting and informative.  Focusing on Lynch & Sons (which is one of the largest funeral homes in America) it explores attitudes about death from the mourner's and undertaker's perspective.  This film also looks at some procedures and practices not normally seen.

Youtube Link -

The Facts of Death
    A rather long documentary about the funeral industry and attitudes toward death/funerals.  It starts out at a trade show in Las Vegas for funeral companies.  You can watch it on youtube (via link below).

Youtube Link -

Living With Our Dead - a picnic
    This is not really about the funeral industry itself, instead it is about how 'live with our dead' as communities and as individuals.  This documentary is specifically about a picnic held on 2011 in Earlwood Sydney and about how individuals come together to remember their dead.  I tend to avoid Life and Death talk on this blog as it borders on the off topic.  But it is nice to remember the point of funerals from the mourners perspective and how the funeral does not necessarily end when the service is over.

- Movies:

Departures (aka Okuribito) (2008)
    This is one of my favourite movies.  A great Japanese movie about someone joining the funeral industry after he is unable to find work and his struggle with accepting that it is actually his calling.  As well as the external struggle of others to accept his new occupation and calling.  Attitudes towards funeral and death are very different in Japan than in Australia.  So it is good to watch these attitudes unfold and how people deal with death and funerals in a different way.  One thing that struck me was how negatively everyone viewed those who work in the funeral industry.  Even the mourners, while grateful at the time of the funeral still judge him.  I would certainly recommend this film to anyone.

Kissed (1996)
    An infamous movie based on the life of a notorious necrophiliac in America.  It looks at how she develops a love for the dead, both a sexual and emotional love.  Most of the movie is actually quite tender and as someone once said "fairly sweet".  I do not know how "true" the movie is, but it is supposedly based on true events.  Either way a decent movie even if it is at points slow and has a weak ending.

- TV Shows:

Don't Drop the Coffin (2003)
    This show is six episodes of a funeral home in the UK.  It follows the staff as they go about their daily activities and do the job of an undertaker.  For me personally this was the most accurate depiction of how staff behave and interact.  A fun and interesting show, you can watch it on youtube (via link below).

Six Feet Under (2001 - 2005)
    This is hands down the most famous TV show or movie about the funeral industry.  Interestingly enough it does not actually focus on funerals or the industry.  Instead it looks at the characters who work in a funeral home and follows their lives.  At some point almost everyone asks me if I have seen this show and then ask how realistic it is.  It is based in America so it is fairly different to what would happen in Australia.  For example bodies are not usually embalmed in Australia (unlike America) nor do we do anything "reconstructive" really.  Another thing I notice is they do not wear gloves often, this is such an OH&S violation.  Gloves are always and constantly worn before one even goes into the mortuary, let alone when handling the body.

Pushing Daisies (2007 - 2009)
    Unfortunately this show only made about two seasons as it was under-appreciated.  But it is one of the funniest and wittiest shows I have had the pleasure to watch.  Narrated and written by Steven Fry it is about a pie maker who can bring the dead back to life by touching them.  But only for one minute or someone else has to die.  With his power he helps to solve cases for a private investigator in his spare time.  This is not about the funeral industry, but it is about death and does put an amusing perspective on it.  Well worth a watch, it is very light hearted and happy.

Dead Like Me (2003 - 2004)
    Again, another under appreciated show that had so much potential.  This is about a girl who becomes a "reaper" after she is killed in a freak accident one day.  It is about her coming to terms with her own death, and having to take the souls of others.  A very good show that explores the consequences of death, for the living and the dead.

- Books

Changing Ways of Death in Australia. By Jalland, 2006.
    This is by far the best book I have come across regarding the history of the funeral industry.  Not only is it well argued and well written, but it looks at the changing social history of death attitudes and mourning attitudes within Australia and how this influenced the industry.

    If anyone is interested in the funeral industry, regardless of where in the world, then this book is essential!  I cannot stress how useful a tool this book could be if used right.

Jalland, P., (2006). Changing Ways of Death in Twentieth-Century Australia: War, medicine and the funeral business. UNSW Press, Sydney. p.406.

Funeral Rights. By Larkins, 2007.
    I have several issues with it for a number of reasons, and the book is full of minor but obvious mistakes which decent research would have avoided.  Basically Larkins jumps to conclusions and makes assumptions without providing evidence or a good argument in too many instances.  This is probably due to the fact that the book starts on a negative note; the reason Larkins wrote the book was due to a friend having a bad experience with the funeral industry.  This book is simply blind and incorrect criticism of the funeral industry for the sake of it, with a focus on saving money and not providing value.

Larkins, R., (2007). Funeral Rights. Penguin Group Australia, Melbourn. p.256.

Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-In-Training. Jokinen. T., 2010.
    An autobiography of someone training to become an undertaker in America.  It is a good look at early attitudes and experiences and a fun read.

Jokinen, T., (2010). Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-In-Training. University of Queensland Press,. 376 pages.

The American Way of Death Revisited. Mitford. J., 1978.
    I have only read a short way into this book, but so far it looks interesting, and useful.  Hopefully this book will not be like 'Funeral Rights' and will provide some evidence (or decent arguments at least).  Either way, this book has undoubtably had a big impact in some ways.  While I am unsure about the direct changes the book brought to the industry itself, this book certainly influenced how we discuss and describe the industry.

Author: Jessica Mitford
Year: 1978
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
ISBN: 0671244159, 9780671244156
Length: 324 pages

Journal Articles:

Some Rhetorical Directions of Funeral Direction: Historical entanglements and contemporary Dilemmas. Cahill. S., 1995.
    Cahill uses his time at a mortuary sciences school to explore attitudes and perceptions (rhetoric) about the funeral industry.  He talks with other mortuary science students who are training to become undertakers and also looks at the historical evolution of the industry in North America.  It is an interesting and good article, although lacking in evidence at points it does match my experiences almost exactly.

Author: Spencer E Cahill
Year: 1995
Journal: Work and Occupations, Vol. 22 No. 2.
Pages: 115-136

Post-Mortem Personalisation: Pastoral power & the New Zealand funeral director. Schafer. C., 2007.
    This article looks at the concepts of personalisation within the contemporary new Zealand funeral industry.  It's a well written pice that does a good job of critically examining the very notion of personalisation, as well as the role of the New Zealand funeral director.

Author: Cyril Schafer
Year: 2007
JournalMortality, Vol. 12 No. 1.
Pages: 4-21

Corpses, conflict and insignificance? A critical analysis of post-mortem practices. Schafer. C., 2012.
    I have not read this article as fully as the first one by Schafer, but it is also well written and informative.  One of the best aspects of this article is the sources it cites, it incorporates a variety of academic sources and explains them well.  Making it an incredibly useful article for finding other sources and information.  It is the best place to start for anyone studying the funeral industry and concepts within it on an academic level.

Author: Cyril Schafer
Year: 2012
JournalMortality, Vol. 17 No. 4.
Pages: 305-321