NIGHTCRAWLER and News Culture

Posted on Posted in Film

NIGHTCRAWLER is a creepy movie. In fact, Jake Gyllenhaal haunts me in my sleep at this point. And not just because the film is set in Los Angeles, with constant references to places I know, have been to and/or pass on a daily basis. NBD.

The general premise of the film is that a clearly disturbed petty thief Lou happens upon an accident one night and finds out that there’s money to be made in filming these accidents and selling them to local news stations. He starts to go out at night with a police scanner and “freelance” in this business. However, he has a very detached view of these accidents, in which PEOPLE DIE.

It’s obvious that this film is bringing up issues with the local news business (and probably even the national news as well). In order to stay afloat, the news stations must sell ads. In order to sell ads they must have good ratings. How do they get good ratings? Eyeballs. And what do eyeballs want to see? Blood. They want fear. They want to see “urban crime” threatening the suburbs and affluent neighborhoods. They don’t care about politics or local referendums, right? That’s the assumption in the film. And it’s a vicious cycle because¬†once something appears to draw an audience, it must mean they want to see more. Thus the cycle continues.

I love the HBO show¬†THE NEWSROOM. It’s a common theme on the show that they aren’t creating “entertainment”, but instead take very seriously the task to inform the public. But if it isn’t interesting, do you watch? Do you listen? This quandry has created this problem within American News Culture. Sometimes I just want to learn something. I don’t always need to be entertained. And isn’t there some sort of venn diagram sweet spot in the middle? Let me know when someone solves this.

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