…did not kill Philip Seymour Hoffman. He was dead long before that last needle punctured his vein.
Arguably before ANY needle delivered the addictive narcotic to his waiting brain, the long-since abandoned depot waiting for a bullet express train to crash full throttle through its inner cavity, horns blaring and metal shrieking to a deafening roar and then… dead silence. Once again. Like so often before. The depot being haplessly reconstructed, so in due time the scenario could be re-enacted. Once again.
Mass media just don’t get it.
They never have. Countless celebrities have succumbed to alcohol and drug addictions, and countless more are succumbing as you read this. But the typical media response has been
Tsk, Tsk. What a shame. She (he) is such a “nice person.”
The collective media dullards entice us to make allowances for the artistically-gifted personality, characterizing them as luminaries on a far higher plane than most, who need to occasionally partake of the dark side of life for inspiration or to feed their never-satiated inner muses. So the drinking and the drugs and the uncivilized outbursts are tolerated, even venerated, as potential fodder for their on-stage or on-screen lives, so long as… the celeb de jure is generally perceived as… (yes)
Until finally, much too late, the same media–though only for a moment–realize their own role in the artist’s demise. Then they superficially bemoan
Tsk, Tsk. What a shame. She (he) was such a “nice person.”
Schema theory explains that images and situations portrayed on television and film provide building blocks for how we, the audience, construct–and re-construct–our internal (cognitive) reality. Our reality about people, politics, tangible and intangible things, including our concept of the “the self,” are made up mostly of a curious amalgamation of information bits about the things which we have been experiencing and observing since we arrived on the planet. As we learn more about anything we adjust the schematic references in our minds, or, in some cases, we adjust the incoming information to fit into the existing realities already present there, since the latter requires fewer processing resources (and less work!). This has been demonstrated by Rumelhart (1980) and others who have done extensive research using schema theory.
What’s the take away for mass comm students?
I think most of my students don’t believe they can make a difference in the field of mass communication. But I am increasingly driven to help assure them they definitely can and to motivate them to want to try because Christians in media, working through the power of the Almighty, CAN help us all to GET IT.
We have to make sure that the world GETS IT. Those who produce, direct, and appear in media must be willing to bring the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ to light in every performance, in every commentary, in every production, in every TV or movie scene. Christians have the truth about the Savior, and that is the only truth that will really set people free (John 8:31-32). The next generation–our current college students–are the ones who have to be “the light on the hill” that cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14-16).
Being a “nice” person will NOT, in and of itself, bring one happiness in this life. Nor will it secure one eternal life with our Creator after all these perishable things which we see fade away and are gone forever (I Peter 1:17-25). Jesus Christ is forever (Hebrews 13:8). Only a personal relationship with Him gives us both lasting JOY now and LIFE in this dying world. More importantly, He offers us an eternal home in paradise with God the Father on that forever bright, Son-shining, everlasting day of eternal bliss which shall not fade away (Revelation 22).
Without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ we are ALL, sadly, Walking Dead.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. 3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23, NASB)
Dr. Darrell Roe (Ph.D., UGA, 1998) is an Assoc. Prof. of Mass Communication at ETBU. His specialty is analyzing the content of visual media and its effects on audiences.