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Opinion: We must recognize human error

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There are plenty of spoilers for the show

There are plenty of spoilers for the show "This Is Us" in this piece.

There are plenty of spoilers for the show "This Is Us" in this piece.

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 inSpoiler warning: This opinion piece contains commentary on some of the latest developments in the hit TV show “This Is Us.”

You may not have noticed, but for a brief period of time this weekend, the number one trending video on YouTube was a Super Bowl ad with “This is Us” actor Milo Ventimiglia walking by what appears to be the set refreshment table whilst touting unity, forgiveness and the hashtag #crockpotisinnocent.

The ad was in response to Crock-Pot’s request that the writers of the show “This Is Us” help restore their company’s image after a heart-rending episode in which Ventimiglia’s character (Jack) is killed in a house fire that starts when an old Crock-Pot shorts out.

This episode became a PR disaster for the company because directly after it aired, many millennials began tweeting about throwing out their Crock-Pots (and in some cases, they literally threw their Crock-Pots out the window).

While the ad was cleverly written and well-received (a testimony to the great work put in by Crock-Pot’s PR team), what troubles me is the fact that this ad was needed in the first place. I believe the situation is problematic for a couple of reasons.

First, in an age of passive media consumption, I submit to you that the show’s audience may have missed a vital point of story-telling: the order in which the events leading up to the fire are portrayed. In the scene immediately preceding the fire, we see Jack (preoccupied by the happenings in the lives of his children) packing up food, cleaning up the kitchen, writing a note to his son, turning off lights and flipping off the Crock-Pot switch. At this point, the camera cuts to a flashback of years ago when the family first received the Crock-Pot. Upon giving Jack and Rebecca (Jack’s then-pregnant wife) the Crock-Pot second-hand, their elderly neighbor (George) warns Jack that the switch is faulty.

At this point, the screen once again shows the Crock-Pot, which switches back on and shorts out, causing the kitchen to catch fire. It is only after it is made clear that we have every reason to expect the switch to fail that we see the switch failing. Jack absentmindedly switches the Crock-Pot off even though he was told not to trust the machine.

This order of shots (combined with the fact that multiple characters seem to blame themselves at various times for Jack’s death) indicates to me that the writers didn’t intend for Jack’s death to be blamed on anything other than human error.

This leads us to a bigger problem: Millennials throwing Crock-Pots out of windows speaks to what I believe is an over-eagerness to blame and then rage against machines rather than addressing the real problem: human error. Inanimate objects are only as harmful as the intent or carelessness of the person operating them.

Jack’s death is an accident, an accident caused by his lack of attention to a well-know reality in his life. The family’s used Crock-Pot, which had a faulty switch that required that they “fiddle with” it when they recieved it, still has that same faulty switch. Jack forgets this fact, opting to trust the switch instead of unplugging the pot. The #crockpotisinnocent because the Crock-Pot isn’t the agent here, Jack is.

We ought to stop ignoring the true cause of tragedy (human error) in favor of throwing Crock-Pots out of windows. Until we do that, the best and only thing we’ll really accomplish is the occasional funny commercial.

1 Comment

One Response to “Opinion: We must recognize human error”

  1. Cathy Peless on February 8th, 2018 2:43 pm

    Don’t forget the real human error in this whole scenario, he forgot to buy batteries for the smoke detector. To the people who are going to the extreme and throwing out their crock pots…This is a fictional story, people!! Jack is not real!!

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