Take time for empathy

I love movies and the fascinating process required to make movies. Camera techniques, stunts, visual effects, miniature models, CGI, intricate sets, costumes and talented actors are all combined to create the magic of movies. 

My love of the art of filmmaking, in part, explains the sadness I felt upon learning the news that on Oct. 21, actor Alec Baldwin had accidentally shot and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins with a prop gun thought to be unloaded on a movie set in Santa Fe County, New Mexico. 

In an instant, life was cut short for Hutchins, a rising star of cinematography, leaving her family, friends and coworkers to mourn. A dark cloud of uncertainty descended over the career of Baldwin, a successful actor. Only time will tell the effect the incident will have on Baldwin’s willingness to take certain roles or even to act at all.  

Further, the spell of movies broke, and a view opened onto the movie set, but not on an entertaining blooper captured in a behind the scenes video. Instead, it was revealed that movie sets, filled with workers, are jobsites and deadly workplace accidents can happen. 

Instinctively, I knew the incident would be used as fuel for attacks by Baldwin’s critics. But I was surprised by how quickly the barrage began. 

Barely 24 hours after the accident I encountered memes making light of Hutchins’s death and the role played by Baldwin in the tragedy. 

The impulse to rapidly pounce on the tragic mistakes of another person is not new. 

On Feb. 13, 2006, comedian and late-night talk show host David Letterman began his show by joking, “Good news, ladies and gentlemen, we have finally located weapons of mass destruction … it’s Dick Cheney,” as reported by the Los Angeles Times. Letterman referred to the fact that only two days prior, then-Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney, had accidentally shot an acquaintance with a shotgun while hunting quail.  

In this situation, the shooting victim survived and as a controversial political figure, Cheney had many detractors as reported by The Atlantic in 2011. As such, the abounding jokes, criticism, rumors and conspiracy theories were not remarkable. 

Baldwin, like Cheney, is subject to some public dislike due to his personality, persona, controversies and political stances. 

However, in the Baldwin case a person is dead, and this fact seems to be forgotten or ignored by some. 

Time should be allowed for mourning the loss of a life and for feeling at least some empathy for a human being who by cruel fate accidentally killed another human being, in what Baldwin described to the tabloid online newspaper TMZ as a “one-in-a-trillion event.” 

I can’t say for sure if the empathy I feel comes from the same source, the same artistic spirit, as my love of movies or is a result of that love, but I urge everyone to take a long moment of silence and introspection before jumping to use an innocent person’s untimely death as a weapon to mock and malign a foe.

Categories: Editorials, Opinion