Is Showtime’s ‘Active Shooter’ Just Another Attempt to Sensational Gun Crime?

active shooter
credit: Showtime/Facebook

Showtime has officially set a premiere date for their new docuseries Active Shooter: America Under Fire. But is it too soon?

If movie goers weren’t ready to see World Trade Center in 2006, a film centered around the 9/11 terror attacks so soon after they actually happened, then I can just imagine the conversations that will surround Active Shooter.

Each episode of the 8-part docuseries, premiering Sept. 29, focuses on one mass shooting incident from recent U.S. history. The episodes will explore all aspects of the crime, including the premeditated events, the actions of first responders, and the impact on survivors and affected families.

Clearly, from the teaser, a handful of first responders, survivors, and nurses are comfortable speaking to the camera about the terrifying event they were tragically a part of.

But will Active Shooter force Americans to relive moments we already watched with twisted stomachs on the news? And will it bring disturbing images and memories back to life when all some might want to do is forget?

According to Deadline, the series “attempts to create a forum for understanding, discussion and debate, keeping the lives and loss of the victims paramount.” And, to be fair, the producers’ and network’s intent could very well be to spark a national conversation.

But I can’t ignore the context in which the show will premiere.  Active Shooter comes in the midst of a newfound trend amongst entertainment consumers. With podcasts like Serial and In the Dark, and tv shows like American Crime Story, The Keepers and all of the JonBenet Ramsay specials I can’t keep up with, Active Shooter might just be another attempt to keep up with audience’s fascination with true crime.

Sensationalizing a real tragedy is easy, and Hollywood has done it before. In February, a film based loosely off of the Aurora theater shooting, Dark Night, was released in Colorado. The movie created characters from victims and a villain from a man who killed 12 people and injured 70 others. It twisted a night of real horror into an indie movie.

I can excuse Active Shooter at this point mainly because it hasn’t premiered yet, but also because, as a docuseries, its intent leans more toward informing an audience using truth and firsthand sources.

And if the series takes a real look at the gun violence epidemic in America, it could be beneficial exposure for an issue that so many Americans don’t even realize is abnormal for a developing country.

Case in point? When former President Obama proposed executive actions on gun control in 2016, 72% of Republicans opposed them. Five months later, 49 people were killed at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. Active Shooter will certainly chill audiences with retellings of that catastrophic night, but will it really sway those who oppose stricter gun regulations?

Dark Night verged on the exploitation of real tragedy for entertainment purposes. I’ll definitely be watching to see if Active Shooter: America Under Fire follows suit.


Anne Catherine Demere
Anne Catherine Demere is an intern with Femestella. She is almost too passionate about pop culture and the entertainment industry and she loves to write about it. One of her favorite things is when feminism and pop culture overlap. She's either starting a new TV show or in class, there's no in between. And those two rarely coincide.