In 2013, a train carrying crude oil derailed in a small Canadian town. The Lac-Mégantic rail disaster would consume much of the downtown area and take 47 lives. It was a major disaster that dominated even US news broadcasts, and one that will never be forgotten in Canada.
If you're one of the more than 45 million Netflix subscribers who've seen Bird Box, then you've seen some of the footage from this very real disaster. The footage appears early in the film, according to Mashable.com, when Sandra Bullock's character is flipping through channels seeing scenes of apocalypse.
Netflix probably did not know what they were using, as the footage was purchased from a stock image vendor. But it's also not the first Netflix show where the Lac-Mégantic disaster footage has been used in an entertainment show. It was also used in a sci-fi show called Travelers. In that case, the production has apologized and promises to replace the footage.
Bird Box is another story, though, and Netflix says they will not replace the footage from this awful rail disaster.
Residents of Lac-Mégantic have understandably not taken kindly to their town's worst disaster being used in an entertainment show. And I can imagine that a lot of people living on the Gulf Coast understand their feelings.
Long time residents of the Gulf Coast remember our own deadly train derailment. In the early morning hours of September 22, 1993, Amtrak's Sunset Limited passed through Mobile and continued northeast to ward the Big Bayou Canot bridge. A few minutes earlier, the bridge had been struck by a barge and knocked out of alignment.
The scene was devastating -- a hard-to-reach train derailment that took 47 lives, exactly the same number as in Lac-Mégantic, and caused more than 100 injuries. It was, quite simply, the worst rail disaster in the United States.
I simply can't imagine seeing Mobile and the Gulf Coast's real-life rail disaster used for entertainment purposes, nor would I wish it upon anyone else. When we watch a movie about 9/11, we expect to see images of the disaster. It's difficult to tell a story about real life tragedy without using real footage. But for something else altogether? Imagine the outrage is a production company used footage from 9/11 as a stand-in for something else in a science fiction show. Residents of Lac-Mégantic specifically shouldn't have to watch their town in flames, just because they decided to binge watch something on Netflix.
Six years later, residents are still dealing with that very real trauma. Marie-Claude Arguin is Lac-Mégantic's executive director, and she tells the New York Times: “You can’t imagine what those images represent for many people here in Lac-Mégantic. It’s a reality that many worked really hard to try to forget.” She also noted that the town still has a team of psychologists still working with residents who are dealing with the trauma of that horrible night.
Would it really harm the movie to edit out one apocalyptic scene, the one from Lac-Mégantic? If the production company that made Travelers can fix their mistake, why can't Netflix do the same with Bird Box?