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Blood and Guts: Christine Chubbuck, Death and The Voyeur

I gave you blood, blood, gallons of the stuff

I gave you all that you can drink, and it has never been enough

- blood (end credits) by my chemical romance

In the middle of 1975, Christine Chubbuck, a Florida-based television news reporter, made history in being the first person to die by suicide on live TV. 

As it's become a trend which has made a lot of people money, I've become vehemently anti-'true crime', the genre of podcast/docu-series/YouTube deep dive where the audience is invited to gawk at what is usually the most gruesome and grief-riddled time in people's lives. They often focus on murders and cults, topics that are both taboo and incredibly gendered. We have become more and more obsessed with women in pain and turmoil.

Earlier this year, I watched Christine (2016) and Kate Plays Christine (2016) in succession after I realised they were both about Chubbuck. I don't mean to become fixated on troubled public figures and have become wary of my attachment to those who have committed suicide in particular. Much like true crime, the media on Chubbuck has become the only language we have to discuss her death, how public it was, how lonely. 

Where else can we discuss death, if not at the movies?


The first dead body I saw I was my Grandad's. On the morning he died, my mother rang me and asked if I would like to see him before the morticians took him away. We were not close. I still had to look. Him, stiff, mouth open wide, crowded by my Aunts, my mother. I'm not sure why I started crying. My body has a delayed reaction to the world. We were not close. I don't cry in front of my family. He wasn't in their anymore. Why did I cry? My head was buried in one of my Aunt's armpits. I couldn't stop. I couldn't stop.


There are few things we know about Christine personally, if we ever actually can know someone in the public eye. She was good at her job. She was passionate about her community. She had never had sex. She wanted to have children. She wanted to die.

Kate Plays Christine very self-righteously points out that the audience's obsession with the way this woman dies is sick and masturbatory, after spending the entire film arguing that no one cared or even knew about this woman's death in the first place. You created a film about a public suicide and were then outraged and smug when people wanted to see what you were talking about.

Christine is obtuse at times, feeling oddly disconnected from the event but so very obviously leading up to it. Both films are trying to work out why this happened and neither can truly get there because there was so little know about the actual person they were made about. This film, a more narrativised version of life events, comes the closest to the answer. Where Kate Plays Christine chastises your curiosity, Christine attempts to meekly piece it together, at least attempting a resolution to the story. Chubbuck was lonely and disillusioned with the world. There's nothing more human than that.


How can I possibly look down on people who obsessively watch/listen/create fandoms around true crime? What leg do I have to stand on?


I was young when I first wanted to die. A teenager. Living with myself felt unbearable and I was convinced that I could just walk out without much fuss. 

I feel connected to Christine because she wanted a fuss. She'd lived a life where no one was looking at her and she wanted people to see that she was in pain. So she showed them.

It's so hard to not turn someone's death into something symbolic.

I'm as bad as the films. 

I'm a hungry audience member trying to find meaning in death. 



In the film World's Greatest Dad (2009), Robin Williams plays a father who disguises his son's asphyxiation-based death as a suicide to hide the fact that he was choking himself for sexual pleasure. In writing his suicide note and eventually his memoir on behalf of his dead son, he comes to realise truly how much our image of someone changes once they dies and, in a blunt, cynical and ham-fisted portrayal, the way that people want to be involved in the grieving process and more importantly, the rehabilitation of a terrible person's character once they have died. 

This film has become almost haunted with the death of Robin Williams and the knowledge of Williams' own indiscretions make this film even more disturbing, though they are nowhere near like that of the film which is disgusting and sexually perverse to the point of absurdity. 

Though heightened, the film asks us to question the relationship with have with public-facing grief and what relationship we are taught to have with the dead.


I do not want the romance. 

I do not want to be suicidal. 

I want to want to live.

 I would like to no longer be lonely, to understand the world, to love and be loved. 

I want to be seen. 

And this person I never met made me feel seen. 

Her fictionalised image flickering across my screen as she obsessively looks for the story she wants to tell, as she challenges her boss on what 'news' even is, as she remains passionate about people despite struggling to connect with them. 

I keep thinking about Christine Chubbuck being a woman in journalism in the 70s and it makes me proud and sad and defensive when people view her as simply someone who committed suicide on live TV.


When someone in your family [nearly dies/dies], it makes you want to [live/die]. You convince yourself this is an amazing display of private [longing/empathy] and not spiralling [despair/validation]. You go to [work/die] without letting it slip into your facial features and [swim/sink] with ease. It's a [dance/a flail of limbs] you've known for a long time. There is no such step as acceptance. Are you jealous you didn't get to see the [blood/end]?


I have googled the name 'Christine Chubbuck' so many times. Every time, there is a auto-complete for 'death' 'video'. This video does not exist. But we search for it. I'm still so tempted to try and find it. I restrain myself every time. I have to restrain myself.