When I’m watching TV and a character gets shot, I subconsciously hold my breath until someone else yells out “Call 911!” I want them to do that step, and put pressure on any open wounds. In this small specific way, television has taught me what to do in an emergency and how to not just be a bystander. Someone needs to shout to call 911. Someone else needs to actually call. Someone has to stop the bleeding. Everyone has a job and, thanks to popular media, we know what those jobs are.
I’ve had first aid training and listened to the in flight safety instructions, but it’s television where I see those theoretical measures put into practical (though fictional) use. TV has prepared me for earthquakes and quicksand, yet I’ve never lived where I could encounter either.
But television hasn’t taught me or others how to handle more common dangers, like street harassment and sexual assault. There has been no equivalent bystander training to call 911 or lend assistance when a woman is being attacked in the street.
How many movies have a man peeping in on a woman as she changes? How few show someone stop him or scold him or slap him for it! How many movies have the male lead kiss the female lead into compliance, and call this romance?
I have never experienced earthquakes or quicksand, never seen a bleeding gunshot wound, never had to render first aid for a serious injury. I have always lived among sexual predators and abusers, always heard verbal abuse against my sex, always had to render aid to friends suffering serious emotional and mental injury caused by rape.
I appreciate the first aid refresher, really. I’m reasonably confident I would remember to shout or call an ambulance and put pressure on wounds if I ever should witness a shooting. I’m not confident most good men even know to shout or call for help or try to intervene when they witness verbal harassment, stalking, and threats.
Can television writers please start including this public training? You’ve taught me to do CPR chest compressions to the beat of “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees. Can you please teach people to offer the seat next to them to the girl being harassed by a man on the train? Can you drive “Leave her alone!” as deeply into our psyches as you’ve driven “Call 911!”? Can you teach us to not be bystanders here as well? Please?