Reliving tragedy through film
On April 15, 2013 two brothers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, set off two pressure cooker bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Boylston Street. They hid two backpacks packed with the pressure cooker bombs and other shrapnel amid the crowds of spectators who were watching the runners come in, as reported by ABC News.
When the bombs went off, they created utter chaos, killing three and injuring over 260 people, according to ABC News. Of the three dead was an eight-year-old boy named Martin Richard. Sixteen of the injured lost legs, including Richard’s seven-year-old sister, as reported by The Telegraph.
Once the identities of these brothers were revealed with surveillance cameras, a massive manhunt began. In the Tsarnaevs’ attempt to run, they allegedly shot and killed MIT police officer Sean Collier when trying to steal his weapon, as reported by The Telegraph, adding one more to their casualties.
They then took the driver of a car hostage, forcing him to drive around Boston and take money out of ATMs. The hostage escaped at a Cambridge gas station and called the police, who tracked the car the older Tsarnaev was driving to Watertown, a Boston suburb, according to History. There in a neighborhood, a massive gun battle broke out, seriously injuring one officer and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Dzhokhar took off in the stolen car, running over his brother, who later died in the hospital, and eventually abandoned it fleeing by foot. They found him the next day in a Watertown resident’s boat, where he wrote a note in his own blood explaining that the bombings were for the American wars in Muslim countries. These two brothers shut down the Boston area for four days, ending and drastically changing the lives of many.
Boston’s own Mark Wahlberg is going to star in a movie, titled Patriots Day about the bombing as a Boston police officer. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the movie will be filmed in Boston and the goal is for it to be released in Los Angeles, New York City, and Boston on Dec. 21, 2016. Additionally, there are other films being made about the bombing, including one titled Stronger, starring Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler) and Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) that will focus on a man who lost both of his legs during the bombing.
While the creation of films about tragedies like the bombing theoretically have the goal of honoring lives that were lost and impacted, this goal is overshadowed by the negative forces that come with it.
The media covers most films with big name stars like Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Wahlberg. This is the case with Stronger and an article The Hollywood Reporter published about it. The article discusses Jake Gyllenhaal’s extensive workout training to portray the part of Jeff Bauman, the man who lost both of his legs, and how he “hit the gym big time” and worked with his trainer who was wearing “an official Boston Marathon jacket.” The article also commented on how thin Gyllenhaal looked, making his weight loss and muscle building heroic, when he is portraying a man who lost two of his limbs.
Another issue that is raised when creating a movie out of something so tragic is the portrayal of real people who either lost their lives or were greatly impacted by the events. These people have friends and family who care for them, love them, and miss them. Who is going to play the role of eight year old Martin Richard who lost his life on the day of the bombing? How about his little sister Jane who lost her leg? Their family will have to watch their lives coming apart once again.
Which actors are going to portray the Tsarnaev brothers, who brought so much destruction to the city of Boston? Is it going to be portrayed by actors of Middle Eastern descent, like the Tsarnaevs were?
All of this comes back to the question of who is benefitting from a movie being made about the marathon bombing.
It could be the filmmakers, producers and actors and actresses who will likely make millions off of the films being made.
It could be the victims and their families. They are being commemorated, but filmmakers have to be cautious to not glorify their suffering or heroize the actors playing instead of the victims themselves.
Or it could be the public, who needs a coping method for tragedy so great and hard to understand. Making a heroic movie about the Boston Bombing gives hope and entertainment from something caused so much suffering. Society cannot simply accept hate so strong and destructive, so movies are created to help cope and to create hope.
But maybe instead of reliving tragedies to cope, we should be moving on and trying to create a society where this kind of suffering doesn’t happen.
Sophie Johnson is a freshman journalism major who knows the difference between storytelling and exploitation. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.