Welcome back to The Trailer Park! Today, I’m looking at the trailers for two films about Christine Chubbuck. (Content warning: I am about to talk about suicide.)
First a little background information: Christine Chubbuck was a newswoman in Sarasota, Florida, who hosted a morning show. On July 15, 1974, she told her coworkers that she needed to give a news report before the show. She reported on a few news stories, including a shooting that had taken place at a local restaurant, before giving the following statement: “In keeping with Channel 40’s policy of bringing you the latest in ‘blood and guts’, and in living color, you are going to see another first—attempted suicide.” She then took a .38 caliber revolver, and shot herself behind her right ear. She was taken to Sarasota Memorial Hospital, where she died 14 hours later.
There are several reasons for her suicide that had been floating about: she quite clearly suffered from severe depression, which many people in her life attributed to her lack of friends or the fact that she was 29 and still not married (it was a different time). She had also expressed some discomfort with the station’s “if it bleeds, it leads” policy. Either way, the footage has not been showed since it first aired, and it remained in possession of the station’s owner, Robert Nelson, until his widow gave it to a law firm.
The first film, simply titled Christine, is a biopic starring Rebecca Hall as Chubbuck. It takes place during the few days leading up to her suicide, detailing her depression as well as an unrequited crush on fellow newscaster George Peter Ryan (Michael C. Hall). It was directed by Antonio Campos and shown at the Sundance Film Festival on January 23, to generally positive reviews. One thing that I noticed the most is that Rebecca Hall looks a great deal like Chubbuck. Another is that one would expect a film like this to be a horrible, depressing slog due to the subject matter, but the trailer has some genuinely funny moments to it.
Of course, this isn’t the only film about Chubbuck to be released this year. The second isKate Plays Christine.
The film was directed and written by Robert Greene, and was also released at the Sundance Film Festival. It’s currently sitting at a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s a semi-fictional documentary that follows actress Kate Lyn Shiel as she prepares to play Chubbuck. As she digs deeper and talks to people who knew Chubbuck, she begins to become obsessed with the role.
Before I saw the trailer for Christine randomly on Facebook, I actually had no idea who Christine Chubbuck was, and apparently there were a lot of people who didn’t know too much about this incident was well. It’s not particularly surprising: the footage was never aired again and has been locked away for over 40 years, and at this point the internet was still in its infancy. If this was something that had happened today, it would have spread all over social media like wildfire.
The first trailer describes the incident as “shocking.” I would just also like to add that, from the research I did for this post, it’s also extremely sad. We, as a society, have this stigma against talking about mental illness, and I’m sure it was the same in 1974 (if not more so). According to this reprint of a Washington Post article written soon after her death, it seems like she was seeing a psychiatrist, but that psychiatrist didn’t take her seriously.
That said, if you or someone you know is suicidal, please seek help.
Christine will be getting a theatrical release on October 14, while Kate Plays Christine was released on August 24.