Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Hiring Funeral Guests

Here is an article about professional funeral guests in Taiwan. You hire them to create the appropriate level of sorrow at a family member's funeral:

Liu and her five-member Filial Daughters' Band are part of a thriving mourning business in Taiwan. They're professional entertainers paid by grieving families to wail, scream and create the anguished sorrow befitting a proper funeral.

The performances are as much a status symbol for the living as a show of respect for the dead on this island of 23-million people lying 145 km off the Chinese coast.

Weary, grieving relatives hire groups like the Filial Daughters' Band to perform their mournful stuff for $600 for a half day's work.

Maybe for a little more money, you could get Al Pacino to give an impassioned eulogy or bring in a phone booth and have Will Ferrell scream out "I'm in a glass case of emotion!" at your funeral.

(Source: Marginal Revolution)

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

My first thought was how wierd that is, but when you think about it, people are hired for everyday tasks that others may not want to do, such as cleaning a house or cooking (and cleaning up after) dinner. So this 'business' makes sense, its just a little strange. If I didn't like a certain family member, but it was necessary to make the proper show of the funeral, I might just have everyone chip in for some professional screamers so we didn't have to fake it.
-Andrew Gelly

Anonymous said...

I realize its a different culture, but from what i've read the whole idea of it sounds horrible! paying people to pretend to be sad doesn't really sound respectful. People should be able to be sound and grieve at their own amount and pace. I also think the business is taking advantage of grieving people. If having a business fake cry at a funeral has become popular, then to NOT have the same amount of crying would make the dead person seem not as liked... but that wouldnt necessarily be true.

Im not sure if that makes sense but it makes sense to me. It just sounds too much like buying friends and happiness except like your buying grievers instead...
-kelly Gaetano

Richie Rich said...

I agree with Kelly in the fact that you do have to realize that it is a different culture and pay your respects in that sense, but it is very strange even for a cultural boundary in my mind.

This is something that people do not want to do so it makes sense to pay other people because it gives the image to the family and friends that the person who died had a good life and will be going to a better place knowing that they suceeded in life. You hire complete strangers to do some things at your weddings like the priest or preacher is usually some completely random guy, so why cant they do the same thing when you die. I guess if you're a loser and you have no friends then this is the perfect way to kind of build up some self esteem not like you need it if you're dead. you really shouldn't have to pay someone to do it though, it should be a natural feeling that overcomes you, sadness that is, that doesnt mean you have to scream and pull your hair out but you can atleast shed a tear or two; not hire some kind of company to do the dirty work for you

Richie Rich said...

oh and im chase croft

i keep forgetting to type my name

Kind Kimberly Burky said...

I agree with ANDREW. People are paid to do EVERYTHING. You can hire an escort to a party, you can pay someone for sex (thats illegal btw), you can basically buy any service that you want. Although it might be weird and distasteful, how much more odd is it than attending a Broadway musical? It's all about putting on a show and faking emotions. Thus, although initially off-setting, if I didn't have enough guests at my funeral, I would want these folk there. Holler.

Anonymous said...

When you think about the funeral process as a whole, paying someone $600 to add to the "apperance" of the funeral doesn't seem that absurd. Behind paying for a house and car, paying for a funeral is one of the most expensive purchases a consumer makes. The average funeral these days cost thousands of dollars and some reach insane prices. I think Ronald Regan's funeral was over 400 million dollars (makes $600 look like spare change). So how is paying for a coffin, a plot of land, or decorations any different than having people seem emotional at the funeral? They are all different ways to show respect to the person who has passed away.

Brian Berkowitz

Michael Arjona said...

Chris Hellmann's blog entry:
"The customs here would not accept such a 'business'. A funeral is not a competition to see who can have the most people show up and cry their eyes out, but a fairly quick, respectful payment of last respects to a lost soul. If the customs allow such a businees to exist, then the profits made were well deserved. Also, just to add to Brian's funeral cost estimation, Ronald Reagan's casket is estimated at $14,000."

And to add my own note for clarification, Brian's estimate of $400 million is based on the fact that federal employees in Washington DC were given the day off, and is therefore a cost of the funeral because the government paid that amount to its employees without them working for it that day. It is an indirect cost, but still counts nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

yea i'm sorry but i agree with topher.. i think that it is ridiculous to hire people to pretend to be sad someones funeral. A funeral is a chance to mourn someone that you KNEW and were often were close to and loved. It should be respect for recognition for their lives and mourning for their loss and or celebration for their new lives; a random person who does not know them cannot participate in such actions. It seems more of an insult to me in that the people who knew them are actually not sad enough, but need to hire someone to "prove" how sad they are or how important the person is. Also, if anyone attended Willie's funeral, I think that we need to try and look at life more in that way, and instead of mourning someone's death, celebrating their life and the new life that they will soon embark upon. Therefore, professional greievers would not be needed. Maybe professional celebraters in this case, but never the less I think the entire idea is absurd.

PS MISTER ARJONA I'M REALLY REALLY SORRY THIS IS LATE I HOPE YOU CAN ACCEPT IT.. I HAD TO LEAVE RIGHT AFTER SCHOOL TODAY FOR MY DIVEMEET AT DALTON AND WE DID NOT GET BACK TO WALKER UNTIL AFTER 10...WHEN I THEN WENT STRAIGHT TO THE MIDNIGHT SHOWING OF HARRY POTTER WITH FREINDS (AND TEACHERS LIKE YOURSELF WERE THERE AS WELL HA) :-D ..TRY NOT TO BE TOO JEALOUS.. BUT I DID NOT GET HOME UNTIL JUST NOW WHEN I SPRINTED TO MY COMPUTER TO DO MY ECONOMICS BLOG AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.. I'M QUITE QUITE QUIITE SORRY! BUT ITS HERE! DON'T FRET!

-Maria Guilbault

Anonymous said...

I think that everyone has agreed with everyone else's posts in saying that they disagree with the idea and that it is a little strange...but why do you think these people are hired in the first place? People crying at a funeral just intensifies the service and makes people think that the person who died was really important and will be missed a lot. Chase says that there is nothing wrong with having complete strangers at funerals, so how would anyone know the difference. That person crying could be his long lost friend he grew up with in college or something.

Ok, so although it is a little strange, I do not see anything wrong with it unless the man makes a complete idiot out of himself. As long as the "act" is respectful of the deceased, I wouldn't be suprised if we saw heard of some of these professionals in America.

--paul moustoukas

jessica wetstone said...

Funerals in general have nothing to do with the person who is dead, after all what benefit can anyone get once they are dead? none. Funerals are for the grieving family and the living to attend to find comfort for themselves. Therefore, the hired "grieving guests" are solely for the family to pretend that their loved one was someone people ought to be grieving for, as a status symbol like the article said. But it would be hypocritical for us to pretend like american funerals aren't the same way, I mean Ronald Reagan's 14,000 dollar casket isn't doing him any good. I wouldn't be surprised if there is already a business like this one here and we just don't know about it.

jessica wetstone said...

...and I just realized Paul already said that. sorry.

Anonymous said...

I agree with everyone in the fact that this service is quite bizarre but then again, look at some of the services we have here in America...remember, P. Diddy paid that guy solely to hold his umbrella for him when it rained...(saw that on fabulous life) but I think that if it were my family member's funernal, i would be kind of embarassed if i had to actually pay for people to be sad that my family member died.

The point of a funeral is not how many people show up or how loud the mourners cry, but its about appreciating the dead and reminicing about the dead person with other people that cared...and it would be kind of hard to do that if half of the people in the audience were random people paid to be there. But I understand that it shows status and i am not surprised that there are services like that out there.
courtney allen

Anonymous said...

If i was some dead guy laying in a coffin i wouldn't want to have people payed to come see my funeral no matter how few friends i had. I think that this is a completely unethical and disrespectful way to conduct a funeral. It is not necessary to pay for people to attend a funeral: the number of people in attendance to the funeral does not necessarily mean that the person receieving the funeral is a bad person and i don't think that it is necessary to pay to make it seem like so many people are going to miss him and that it is such a huge blow to the community, which in reality it may not be, but not everyone has hundreds of people screaming and wailing at their funerals, which i don't think is a good or bad thing. I don't think that we should relate the number in attendance and emotional status of those people present at the funerals to the person recieving the funeral.
-JASON

Anonymous said...

The idea of hiring professional mourners is not that strange, even in the context of our own culture. The use of hired mourners is less about showing respect for the dead than it is about cultural tradition and status. It is probably viewed as proper for people to mourn to show that the family cared for the deceased enough to pay so much for mourners. Hiring mourners shows that the deceased and family were of high status, like inviting a lot of people to a funeral in America does. A lot of the people there dont't know the person or family too well but are their so the funeral will be bigger and show more status for the family

Richard