Going Postal Review: Documentary Overkilled

May 25, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

GOING POSTAL, Monday 25th May, BBC2, 10pm Alert Me

Not knowing what this show was about before I sat down to review it, I imagined it was a light hearted look at the men and women who rise early to ensure we receive our birthday cards and ebay purchases.

What I wasn’t prepared for was an hour and a half of workplace carnage.

It doesn’t sound too menacing but ‘going postal’ is actually the term used when people go into their workplace or school armed to the teeth and determined to take as many people down with them as possible.

Welcome to America.

It’s a phenomenon that mercifully hasn’t caught on over our side of the Atlantic (where we like to settle our office grievances by putting colleagues’ staplers in jelly), but it’s one which has been growing in popularity in the United States ever since the mid 80s when a series of workplace shooting occurred within the postal industry. Since then the trend has moved into non-mail related jobs and eventually into high schools.

There are a number of questions that you obviously start to ask yourself when your children opt to take a Magnum to school in place of a football, but frustratingly this programme doesn’t probe too deeply into the underlying issues.

What we do get is far more eyewitness accounts and instances of people ‘going postal’ than I thought was strictly necessary. Although questions are asked no conclusions are satisfactorily reached, but perhaps this reflects the difficulty American society has in putting an end to the violence.

Starting with the most recognisable of these tragedies; the high school massacre, we are introduced to the people who on December 1st 1997 witnessed 14 year old Michael Carneal enter his school with a gun he had stolen from his neighbours garage and went on to take the lives of three of his classmates.

Rather tellingly, Michael’s principal matter of factly remembers owning the exact same kind of gun Michael used to shoot up the school with, which just goes to underline how normal gun ownership is in the US. In this country we struggle to get hold of fireworks yet they hand out guns like Metro newspapers.

The show is overly long and does tend to labour the point. It also hints at a link between religion and dealing with the aftermath of the tragedies which is a bit distracting. Overall, though, Going Postal is a mildly interesting look into a society desperately trying to understand the monster it has created.

Jack McKay