Brow Beat

How Well Did the Media Cover the Civilization-Ending Disaster in the Trailer for A Quiet Place?

A new trailer for John Krasinski’s upcoming film A Quiet Place was released Monday, and it looks like it’s going to be two films in one. On its face, it’s the story of a family trying to survive an invasion from creatures—it’s not clear if they’re zombies or aliens or what—who use sound to hunt their prey. But as in any movie about earthshaking developments, the real story is happening in the background, in America’s newsrooms, as fearless journalists risk everything to explain to the public that civilization is over forever. Let’s see how they did!

Newspapers

Newspapers really killed it when it came to covering everyone in the world getting killed! The San Francisco Chronicle’s front page from Nov. 27, 2018, is a perfect example: look how the heavy type and traditional forms instantly convey the gravity of the situation:

The front page of the San Francisco Chronicle announcing a death toll in Shanghai.
Paramount Pictures

The Chronicle immediately conveys the most important facts in the story (“SHANGHAI DEATH TOLL IN THE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS”), even if the story itself is much smaller and more difficult to read and the few legible words don’t seem to be related to the Shanghai Death Toll. Still, most people never read past the headline, so bravo, Chronicle. Tabloid papers, too, had their role to play in the destruction of human civilization as portrayed in the trailer for A Quiet Place, as can be seen in this iconic front-page image:

A tabloid headline reading "U.S. Military Defeated."
Paramount Pictures

Who knows which editor had the idea of placing a low-angle photograph of the U.S. military looking heroic—and so unconcerned about making noise that they’re flying around in helicopters—over the headline “U.S. Military Defeated: ‘ We can no longer protect you,’ ” but it speaks to its own sort of heroism. We hope the full film makes it clear whether or not readers had time to appreciate the photo choice before the zombies or aliens or whatever they are killed everyone involved in the production of this newspaper. Less impressive: Bobby Buckler (?) and Carl Russel’s reporting, for a traditional broadsheet paper, hanging next to it. “IN/OUT CLOSED POWER OUTAGES” is a pretty good headline about the difficulty of getting delicious hamburgers and horrible French fries during a civilizational collapse. And “Magnetic Pulses Cripple Wall Street as Financial District’s Hard Drives are Wiped” seems like a pretty informative, if not completely related subhead. But what the hell is going on with this lede, which is legible if you zoom in?

The 238 passengers and crew members of MH370 came from 13 different countries, but their families share a common pain, the roller coaster ride of hope and the despair of not knowing what happened to their mother, husband, daughter, father, wife or son.

Not only does that have nothing to do with In-N-Out or Wall Street, it seems to be lifted from a blog post about grieving after a disaster where bodies aren’t recovered, as posted on CremationSolutions.com! It’s inevitable that some journalistic standards will suffer as human civilization comes to an end for all time, but plagiarism? Unacceptable. The split between lively, vibrant tabloid coverage and hidebound old-line newspapers is clear in this shot, too:

A tabloid paper reporting on the end of the world.
Paramount Pictures

“Not bullets, not bombs! Armor is impenetrable!” is a great pull-quote, even if it’s unclear which of the joint chiefs said it, or why he or she was speaking in sentence fragments. Contrast that with “ ‘NO CHOICE’ BUT FORCE DECLARES PRESIDENT” on the right. First of all, it’s basically the New York Times subhead from the opening of the first Gulf War. Second, at the end of the article is a bunch of white space and a “WEEKEND ARTS” section with stories headlined “Brawn and Brains Battle Beauty” and “Whole Lotta Wishin’ Goin’ On.” This checks out: there’s certainly a battle, though it’s unclear which side has brawn and brains and which has beauty, and there would be a whole lotta wishin’ going on as the world came to an end. But for God’s sake, editors, let your arts writers go home to be with their families instead of searching for culture angle! The few surviving humans probably don’t care much about the arts anymore, anyway.

On the whole, the print coverage of the humanity-ending disaster in the trailer for A Quiet Place seems to have widened existing divisions between older newspapers and more agile and lively tabloids as the industry contracts. Still, it’s clear that print offers the most comprehensive coverage of everyone getting killed, even considering plagiarism scandals like the one sparked by that story about the end of Wall Street.

Television

Television coverage of humankind’s end in the trailer from A Quiet Place is terrible, and baffling besides. Here’s a complete transcript of the coverage:

“finding a massive invasion” … “around the world” … “an attack” … “total devastation.” 

Perhaps, as our species packs it in for once and for all, some of the country’s remaining citizens would still absorb their news by channel-surfing. And it’s true that these little sound bites convey the gist of the story: everyone is going to die, very, very soon. But there’s no depth to this coverage, and the trailer’s context-free visuals the of TV news raises even more questions:

A TV screen showing rioting.
Paramount Pictures

While it’s reassuring to see that TV news remains committed to the “put a camera in front of a disaster” style of reporting that served them so well when the world wasn’t ending, that’s a vintage CRT picking up what looks like an over-the-air broadcast, judging from the static. Why is a TV station broadcasting in analog in 2018? Did local broadcasters snap back up the entire TV spectrum the second the FCC collapsed? Is that a black and white broadcast or a black and white television? The trailer for A Quiet Place answers none of these critical questions about the television industry’s coverage of the violent deaths of everyone you’ve ever met or cared about, and frankly, it would be a better trailer if it did.

But there’s still enough evidence here to judge TV news’ performance compared to other forms of media, and to find it lacking. While it’s understandable that local television markets would be thrown into chaos by the wholesale slaughter of virtually every human being, it’s still disappointing to see this sort of industry-wide disarray, even more so than it was to see the print media’s end-of-the-world plagiarism troubles. After all, that scandal was just caused by a few rogue reporters who presumably met unspeakable ends shortly afterward. The problems with television coverage, on the other hand, are clearly systemic in nature. On the bright side, the extinction of humanity would presumably break Sinclair Broadcast Group’s stranglehold on local markets.

Citizen Journalists

On the right side of this shot, you can see Emily Blunt’s notes on the creatures that killed off most of her species:

Emily Blunt standing in front of crazy scrawled whiteboard notes about the creatures attacking.
Paramount Pictures

They read, in their entirety:

London 19:49

Bogota 19:52

Moscow 19:54

Boston 19:58

NO PATTERN

Questions

How Many? 3 5

Demands?

Organized?

Attack in packs? [Ed.: this is circled, for some reason.]

WHY DON’T THEY EAT THEIR KILL

Confirmed

Blind

Attack sound!

What is the WEAKNESS [Ed.: “WEAKNESS” has a box drawn around it.]

Good reporting can come from anyone, but what the fuck, Emily Blunt? There’s no structure, no throughline, no sign that this sort of “reporting” could (or should) ever even stand alongside professional journalism, let alone take its place. The trailer for A Quiet Place makes a clear and convincing argument that as economic pressures (and hordes of murderous, humanoid creatures with an implacable lust for human blood) shutter the remaining legacy media outlets, we can expect a sharp decline in the quality and quantity of local coverage that bloggers will do little to stem.

As if to emphasize this point, the same shot has an image of a newspaper with a headline that shows exactly why older forms of media will matter more than amateur reporting when the creatures from the trailer to A Quiet Place arrive to destroy us all. “DEATH ANGELS,” it reads: simple, succinct, perfect. Now that’s the kind of sharp phrasemaking that will be more important than ever as we wait to be slaughtered by sound-hunting creatures from beyond time and space. On its April 6 release, will A Quiet Place instantly become the Trump era’s next beloved paean to old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting, in the vein of Spotlight or The Post? You read it here first.

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Matthew Dessem

Matthew Dessem is Brow Beat’s nights and weekends editor and the author of a biography of screenwriter and director Clyde Bruckman.