Media provides valuable discourse on mass violence


Photo Courtesy of Dominick Dusseault

Ryan Murphy at the PaleyFest 2013 panel on the TV show “The New Normal”

By Hayley Nagelberg, Columnist

If you’re a serious fan of the “Friends” franchise, you may recall the episode where Monica and Chandler are trying to go on their honeymoon and they keep being shown up by another newlywed couple on their travels. 

However, the episode was originally filmed showing the couple being called into questioning after Chandler makes bomb jokes in the airport and then again when the officials later overhear Monica on the phone talking about not waiting for her apartment to blow up if there is a gas leak inside.

The episode was set to air two weeks after 9/11, and in light of those events, the producers decided to change the narrative.

This seriousness of a topic is not always at the forefront of our minds when thinking of our favorite TV shows. However, the opportunity to combine our guilty binge-watching pleasures with some of the most serious conversations in society is crucial to recognize and respond to, not avoid.

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The Tuesday airing of an episode of “American Horror Story: Cult” had been set to open with the portrayal of a mass shooting at a rally. Just over a week since the Las Vegas attack, there has been serious media discussion as to whether this episode should still play out as planned.

Creator of the show Ryan Murphy said in an interview that the episode will still be airing, though it will be edited to contain fewer graphic scenes. This is not the first time this franchise has shown a mass shooting, and the production team filmed this episode months ago.

Murphy said this decision is made with the victims’ rights in mind.

“My point of view was I believe I have the right to air it, but I also believe in victims’ rights. And I believe that now is probably not the week to have something explosive or incendiary in the culture because someone who was affected might watch that and it could trigger something or make them feel upset,” he said. “Nobody ever talks about victims’ rights. That’s sort of a weird emotional discussion that’s never bridged.”

The show “Mr. Robot” chose to delay the finale of its first season, which showed an on-television death of a character, because USA Network felt it was too similar to the then-recent on-air shooting of a Virginia news reporter.

As a society, we consume an inordinate amount of media every day. While I was aware of some of these major instances, I am certain there are so many more moments in production that bring about strong personal connections in viewers.

I had never stopped to consider how these producers decide whether or not to change scenes at the last moment when the topic is widely discussed.

What is clear is that media — electronically, on television or in print — impacts our lives tremendously. It should be utilized as a medium to have a discussion on real-world implications without having to experience the tragedies that have befallen society firsthand.

 The scenes and images do not have to be removed entirely from view; we do not need to fake a reality that does not match our world. But if the conversation is opened, we need to lead it to a place of value.

Hayley is a junior in ACES.

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