There are several reasons why Zodiac has to be watched. In addition to the fact that it is based on real events, it touches upon human deaths which have not been solved yet, failed attempts to discover the killer’s personality and the role of media in crimes. Zodiac tells the story of several murders that happened in the United States between the 1960s and the 1970s. Besides, Zodiac is called one of the best movies at the beginning of the 21st century starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downey, Jr. Finally, this movie is an effective learning tool that helps to disclose the essence of media literacy and possible media impact on people.
Today, the media makes people free and able to investigate human behavior, social norms, and relations that can be developed by separate people and whole nations. Still, it is not enough to identify the advantages of media but try to understand what the media are, and what messages can be delivered. In this paper, the movie Zodiac will be analyzed in terms of three media theories, liberalism, social responsibility, and uses and gratifications, to explain the peculiar features of crime coverage, the appropriateness of investigative reporting, and the development of ethical considerations in crime reports and examine its cultural impact on society.
The role of media in the movie Zodiac cannot be neglected. The development of the events and the rise of the killer’s popularity began as soon as the reporters of the San Francisco Chronicle received and discovered the letter with threats to American society. This movie teaches how crucial the role and impact of media can be. A person wants to be recognized and addresses the press for help. Instead of protecting society, press representatives decide to make the audience direct participants of crime investigation and active receivers of information.
These are the main signs of the uses and gratification theory of the press (Hanson, 2016). At the same time, the movie shows that the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s was the period when the press wanted to stay as liberal as possible and able to provide people with a chance to receive facts and depict truth from falsehood. It is an example of the libertarian theory (Hanson, 2016).
However, Zodiac is not a simple story of one or two crimes that were solved. It is the story with no end. It is a series of crimes that could not be solved by the government and the best representatives of American police. Therefore, the chosen movie also relates to the theory known as social responsibility when the press tries to meet corporate interests and perform several social functions, including entertainment, self-governance, and pressure avoidance.
Still, self-awareness may have a destructive power (Casey, 2015). Characters in the movie are so involved in searching for the truth that they neglect simple things like their possible impact on other people around and the outcomes of their words or their behaviors. “I need to know who he is. I… I need to stand there, I need to look him in the eye and I need to know that it’s him” (Fincher, 2007). Graysmith’s passion for discovering Zodiac seems to have no boundaries. Zodiac shows how confidence in crime coverage and the intentions to succeed in investigative reporting destroys any ethical issues and considerations.
The story of Zodiac was one of the most publicized criminal cases in the history of the United States. Instead of not publishing the letters of the killer, who demanded publicity and recognition, the press used all its powers to make people informed believing that truth had to be revealed by any means. There are two main sides, two ethical dilemmas raised in the movie. On the one hand, there was a possibility not to pay attention to the killer’s letters and not to make all information about murders public. On the other hand, the press was involved in all crime investigations by Zodiac and invite innocent people to participate in crime coverage without even thinking about the impact of such involvement.