Mass Murderers and Media Coverage

Posted: July 20, 2012 in Media
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I went to a matinee screening of The Dark Knight Rises today, and I wrote up a review of the film that should be published tomorrow.  The whole experience of the film, however, was and is overshadowed by the horrific murders at a screening in Aurora, CO last night.  I have to say, it’s awfully hard to sit and write a relatively meaningless film review in this context, but, honestly, people (myself included) do so all the time if you consider the amount of ongoing tragedy and horribleness in our world.  In one of the best reviews of the film I’ve read (despite some specifics I disagree on), Trash Film Guru writes the kind of thing I wish I had in my own review:

At this point, I wonder if it’s even possible to separate today’s tragic events in Aurora, Colorado from any discussion about The Dark Knight Rises and simply analyze the film based on its own merits. If so, it takes a harder heart than mine, so before we even get started here let me say that my heart goes out to all the victims of this completely senseless tragedy, as well as their families and friends. In the days to come we can analyze the motivations, the warning signs that may or may not have been missed, and debate the proper courses of policy action to take in the wake of this absolutely senseless tragedy, and that’s all well and good — we still, and hopefully always will, live in a free society where the open debate and discussion about how best to address any situation, even and perhaps especially tragic ones like this, is not only absolutely appropriate, it’s absolutely necessary.

The amount of attention I should give to such an event in a review was a pretty serious question for me, and I think TFG nailed doing it right.  For the record, I reflected more on the weird feeling of being in the theater itself in this context:

When I arrived at the theater for a matinee showing today, the place was less than a quarter full . . . and it remained that way.   People were also clustered near the rear of the theater, and a somber and weird overall atmosphere pervaded the place.  And, okay, I’ll admit it, I was feeling a bit irrationally paranoid sitting there as well.

These are honest reflections, but they feel too flippant given what happened.  And, even in doing any sort of reflection in that review, and in writing this post, I have a somewhat guilty feeling that the more attention such events garner, the more likely they are, and that I’m somehow contributing to the problem.  In a video Chris Menning posted over at Modern Primate, Charlie Brooker and a psychiatrist (near the end of the clip) bring attention to how media coverage of spree shootings ought to be, but isn’t, handled.  That video:

“If you don’t want to propagate more mass murders, don’t start the story with sirens blaring. Don’t have photographs of the killer. Don’t make this 24-7 coverage. Do everything you can to not make the body-count the lead story, not to make the killer some kind of anti-hero. DO localize the story to the affected community and make it as boring as possible in every other market. Because every time we have intense saturation coverage of a mass murder, we expect to see one or two more within a week.”

The clusters of spree shootings are a fact, though I have no idea how much influence coverage of one has on the next.  I also don’t know if there’s any realistic way that profit-driven news sites and programs would rein in their coverage and do the right thing, but the doctor is dead on in what he is asking for, if only out of respect for the dead and their families.

  1. trashfilmguru says:

    Thanks for the mention, I look forward to reading your own thoughts on the film.

  2. […] My review  of The Dark Knight Rises (minor to moderate spoilers therein) is up over at Modern Primate.  Chris rightly held off on publishing it due to what happened in Aurora, but I did write it immediately after seeing the film on Friday and still feeling the initial shock of the whole situation.  I posted some thoughts on that and the inevitable, irresponsible media coverage in my last entry here. […]