As most of you know, I was a chef before I went back to school to learn video production. It was there during 2014 in production school that I learned about Christine Chubbuck's on-air suicide in Sarasota, FL in the early 70's.
When the story was first told to me I was taken back. How had I never heard of this before now?I researched the story as much as I could and found that all tapes were thought to have been destroyed. It's since come out that the station managers widow does have a tape of the incident but has no intention (thankfully) of releasing it. Some things don't need to be released: This being one of them.
Christine, however, tells Chubbuck's story gracefully. Rebecca Hall takes on the lead role in a humanizing way. Most people think about Christine Chubbuck as an urban legend and not an actual human being with severe mental health issues.
Christine starts off with Chubbuck (R. Hall) doing a mock interview and then analyzing and over analyzing how she says her script. This is something I've watched hundreds of reporters do. Soon we find out that Chubbuck has a massive crush on her coworker, George (played by Michael C. Hall). He comes off as sweet, condescending, and smarmy.
Station Manager, Michael (Tracy Letts), nags about ratings and makes it known across the station that sensationalism is in. This bothers Chubbuck and it ultimately leads to her on-camera demise.
My favorite scene from this film is during a meltdown of Chubbuck's. She's in a room and she's trying to talk while people are talking over her when she suddenly screams, "Why is no one listening to me?" At that point, no one is listening to her. Her mother, her coworkers, everyone has a quick solution to fix her problems. But no one actually listens to her.
It's probably unnecessary to point out how isolating depression is in general, let alone when you're an on-camera reporter who, most of the time, is alone in a room in front of a huge camera.
Here is the part of my review where I guess I'm supposed to stand up for the news industry. As a rather new career, I really don't have much to say on this topic. I don't work in the "news" department, I work in the production department. My opinions are my own on what I've seen in the time I've worked at various stations.
The 1970's were a different time. That's honestly the best I can do for you. The reporters I work with are (mostly) compassionate people. I've watched as some of my coworkers internalize stories and become reactionary to them. I myself (though not a reporter) am still dealing with the long-term effects from seeing the Pulse Massacre unfold while I was at work.
Christine does an excellent job of showing the difference between what a person feels and what they put out into the world. Chubbuck was an interesting example of what happens when mental illness is ignored. I encourage you all to watch this film.