Study Guide

Beetlejuice Mortality

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According to some belief systems, a good person's troubles vanish when they die, but the Maitlands' problems are just getting started when they kick the bucket. From the moment their car crashes, Adam and Barbara are totally confused by how to navigate this latest turn of events. It doesn't help that the entire afterlife is just one soulless bureaucracy.

Death is mostly played for laughs in Beetlejuice. Barbara and Adam's reaction to their own deaths is not so much horror and grief as it is exasperation—it's just all so confusing and then there are these annoying people redecorating their house. The only time the film allows some tragedy to seep in is during the séance, when we see the Maitlands reanimated and then die. Again. And this time they know it's happening. Otherwise, the worst thing about dying is the long lines in the afterlife waiting room.

Questions About Mortality

  1. Why do you think the recently deceased aren't offered more help than just a handbook and eventual visit with a caseworker?
  2. Why don't the recently deceased characters realize they're dead? Does this push the plot forward at all? Is it just played for laughs?
  3. Miss Argentina explains that the punishment for suicide is a lifetime spent working as a civil servant in the afterlife. Is this a fitting penalty? Or just a tasteless joke?

Chew on This

The film actually has some pretty profound things to say about what it really means to be alive or dead—meaningful relationships, emotional connections, etc.

This is a comic horror movie, and the protagonists just happen to be dead. No meaning necessary.

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