On a winter morning in New York City a handful of mourners gathered underground. They dressed in black with black armbands, hung their heads low and listened to a bagpiper.
A bushy wreath of bright yellow, green and red flowers framed a handsome photo of the deceased: a green circle with a white G in the middle. This corpse was not a person, but the emblem for the city’s G-train subway, which hauls thousands of commuters to work each day but is not as well-used as other lines; its services are being curtailed because of budget cuts. “The G Train has been on life support for years,” said one state assemblyman, “Now we stand here at its funeral.”
The event, which took place on the platform beside the G-train tracks was a mock funeral protesting the cuts. Some of the world’s strangest funerals don’t bury men or women, but instead mourn the death of things as abstract as city services, web browsers, Hollywood stars and political freedom.
Earlier this year about 100 people clad in black assembled around a coffin which held a dummy with a logo on its head that read “IE6”. Flowery and philosophical eulogies were given and attendees spoke eloquently about the good times shared with the dear departed, “Internet Explorer 6”, a web browser made antiquated by Google and Firefox. “Oh, where to begin?” began one eulogy, recited by a man named Leonardo De La Rochs. “You were there to witness my hair pulling, face squishing, monitor punching fits and just watched, ever so stoically, as tears filled my eyes when I finally found a work around and knew we’d be okay. You were so understanding when I found my new, foxy friend and even when I came back to you just to check in, you didn’t mind the virtual window that I insisted stay between us. Fare thee well, old friend.”
In July of 2007, the NAACP held a mock funeral in Detroit for the racist slur known as the “N” word. The funeral was a reaction to the racist remarks of radio talk show host Don Imus, in discussing black members of the Rutgers University woman’s basketball team. It was also an effort to stem the burgeoning use of the N word in television shows and rap music. “We are committed to ending hate — word and talk,” said the president of the civil rights organization’s Detroit branch. “It doesn’t do anyone any good, whether it’s a journalist on TV or a rapper on the radio.”
Just last month a comedy troupe held a mock funeral for Sarah Jessica Parker, whose career has stabilized if not slumped since her star role in the HBO sitcom Sex in the City, which followed the sexcapades of a group of flirty New York City career women. Parker played a writer and the funeral featured a bronze statue of her lying on her stomach and typing on a computer while talking on the phone. “She wasn’t Jewish, but her nose was,” said one eulogizer.
In Asir Province, Saudi Arabia, hundreds of students assembled in a courtyard at a high school for a mock funeral last spring. Pupils were silent as one classmate was wrapped in shrouds and carried in front of them on a bier. The ceremony was meant to instill in students the fear of death but critics said it went against Islamic law and reflected the worrisome “culture of death” promoted in Saudi schools. The governor of the province ordered an investigation into the incident and promised that measures would be taken against those responsible.
One of the more serious mock funerals took place last December in Moscow at the Prechistinskiye Gates. It marked the sixteenth anniversary of Russia’s constitution, which the mourners said was being abused by the current government. Activists from opposition groups held placards describing articles of the constitution they believed no longer functioned. “In Russia, human rights are observed on three counts,” declared Roman Dobrokhotov, the event’s orchestrator, “The right to be silent, the right to endure, and the right to die.” Participants lit candles and lay flowers beside a copy of the constitution. There was a moment of silence, then Dobrokhotov and several other mourners were promptly arrested by law enforcement agents.