My Issues with that School Shooter PSA
1. The Blatant Queerbaiting. This was deliberate and manipulative. The focus of the narrative is on the identity of the the desk-writer. Though we see multiple shots of Evan looking at random groups of girls, the only two constant motifs that are present in the mise en scène are Evan and the boy sitting behind him in the background, which naturally leads us to believe that the boy near him is the desk-writer. Even if you didn’t notice the boy behind him, the very fact that they leave the identity a mystery until the end is evidence that at the very least, the writers had no qualms about the viewer constructing a queer narrative in their mind, and at the very most hoped that the viewer would do so to distract them from the school shooter storyline. If they had wanted to avoid queerbaiting, they would have included shots of both desk-writers sending and receiving messages until they discover each other at the end.
While queerbaiting is exploitative enough on its own, this PSA goes a step further by rewarding the cathexis of the viewer who thinks they’re watching a queer narrative with violence, associating the very character whom you have assumed to be gay with gun violence. They take your desire for diverse and queer representation and use it to promote not that which you desire, but the agendas they wish to push.
2. The Lack of Audience. Who is the audience for this? Teachers? Students? Parents? And what message are they trying to send? That if you see a classmate being bullied you should report not the bully, but the classmate for a crime you feel he has the potential to commit? Regardless of the primary audience, this PSA absolutely oozes victim-blaming. That the reason this student decided to shoot up the school is not because he’s disturbed or dangerous, but because you didn’t stop him from doing so.
3. The Meaningless Futility of Telling Someone to Be Aware of Their Surroundings. If you had to pick out the main message of this PSA, it’s “Be Aware and Pay Attention.” What they fail to recognize is the fact that telling someone to be aware is probably the most useless advice you could give them. Does anyone actually go about their day thinking “I’m not being aware enough”? Everyone thinks they’re aware of their surroundings, because any evidence that they are not aware lies outside their awareness–thus we are unable to make objective judgments about our level of alertness to the world around us.
I get what they were going for and I know they had the best intentions–I just wish they hadn’t resorted to shitty techniques and cheap gimmicks to convey their ideas.