On July 14th, 1974, 29-year old Christine Chubbuck, a TV reporter based in Sarasota, Florida, was helming a seemingly routine newscast when there was a technical hitch. Once the live feed returned to the studio, Chubbuck read the following statement: “In keeping with Channel 40’s policy of bringing you the latest in ‘blood and guts’, and in living colour, you are going to see another first – attempted suicide.” She then pulled a gun out from under her desk and shot herself in the head, dying in hospital several hours later. Footage of her suicide attempt was subsequently passed on to the police. In Killing for Culture (1995: revised and updated 2016), David Kerekes and David Slater discuss Chubbuck’s suicide alongside other notorious instances of “Death in the Media.” They note: “The tape has apparently yet to surface in any form. Despite some claims that footage of Chubbuck’s suicide had once circulated on the internet, there is no evidence to suggest it is there now. Frankly, it is unlikely that such material – any material – would ever surface and then simply disappear from the virtual reservoir” (2016: 355).
Footage of Chubbuck’s death may not yet have surfaced in the “virtual reservoir,” but that fact that it inspired two films in 2016 suggests that her story is one that still resonates. The meta staged “documentary” Kate Plays Christine (Robert Greene) is told from the perspective of an actress preparing to play Chubbuck. My focus here is on the more formally conventional take on Chubbuck’s story, Christine (Antonio Campos, 2016), which dramatizes the months leading up to her death.