Biopics are becoming all the rage now with films like Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman and Hidden Figures going on to gain critical acclaim, awards and the opportunity to delve into the overlooked sides of their stories (whether entirely true or not). However, there is a fine line of what should be told and when.
A month ago, I took a break from exam study to watch the news. I was shocked to see a story about a film called “They Are Us” being made about the Christchurch mosque terrorist attack that happened on March 15th 2019. This news has sparked outrage from the New Zealand Muslim community, saying it is “too soon, insensitive and distasteful.” I understand where they’re coming from and agree that it’s inappropriate and way too soon to be making a film. People are still dealing with the effects of this event so having a film could be seen as disrespectful to those that died and those left scarred.
However, media based on tragedies has been released in much closer proximity to the tragedy in times gone by. For example, a song by the Boomtown Rats called ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ was released only a month after the 1979 school shooting it was based on. However, it reached number one on the charts in several countries and won multiple awards. Why has society accepted this when other pieces of media, such as “They Are Us” are criticized? Why do we feel the need to exploit tragedy?
This story also got me thinking about the rest of media and how this is quite a common occurrence and they end up being very successful. Titanic is a prime example of this. James Cameron’s 1997 film grossed $2.195 billion at the box office and is the third highest grossing film of all time. Released 85 years after the tragedy, it romanticized the death of over 60% of the people on board by adding a fictional love story which overshadows the true devastation. Why are we so fascinated by other people’s suffering?
That said, I won’t be seeing this film if it is ever made and released.